WASHINGTON, DC – The Sunlight Foundation today announces a new web tool that reviews the tweets of elected officials and identifies when one goes missing or is edited. The tool, called Politwoops, monitors Twitter’s API and archives tweets from U.S. politicians that get removed. On the site at Politwoops.sunlightfoundation.com, you can view the latest deleted tweets in near-real time or check out deleted tweets for a particular politician. Politwoops follows the official Twitter account for members of Congress, as well as President Obama and Mitt Romney, 435 in all.
“In politics, Twitter is part of the ever-present ‘spin room’ of the digital age. But unlike other mediums, the record of events can be edited; tweets deleted from twitter.com are hard or impossible to see after the fact,” said Tom Lee, director of Sunlight Labs. “Politwoops identifies when politicians or their staffs are editing errors or rephrasing a tweet, providing a window into what politicians are thinking and how campaigns hone their social media messaging.”
Politwoops includes more than 3,000 tweets (and counting) removed by politicians’ accounts in the past six months. Some instances were reported, such as when Sen. Chuck Grassley’s account was hacked earlier this year. Others deletions are humorous such as when the Twitter account of Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) compared reality television show The Bachelor to the popular The Hunger Games book series, or Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) reaction [http://politwoops.sunlightfoundation.com/tweet/176637687145562112] to political protests in Russia.
Some can also be read as controversial. On May 18, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) tweeted a link to a Facebook poll asking, “Was Obama born in the United States?”
Should an account be hacked or abused, all the evidence will be preserved in Politwoops. If a politician tries to hide an embarrassingly honest tweet or an errant missive from a staffer, you can find it later with screenshots of any links and the elapsed time before removal.
Politwoops was originally developed by the Open State Foundation of The Netherlands to follow the country’s members of parliament and town council representatives. There are 12 other international versions of the site, though not operated by Sunlight.
The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit http://SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including http://PoliticalPartyTime.org and http://influenceexplorer.com.