The office of Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., appears to be the first in Congress to systematically remove tweets from his Twitter account after they’ve been publicly available for months. His official @SenatorIsakson account has been scrubbing his public record after 26 weeks while continuing to share new tweets with his approximately 13,000 followers. This unprecedented social media activity for a politician came to light thanks to the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops tool that now serves as the only source for all the tweets Sen. Isakson has removed. When asked about this activity a spokesperson for Senator Isakson said it could be due to a leftover setting in a third party application the office used to bulk remove tweets when switching the ownership of the account from his campaign to his Senate office.
The deletions began in August with a series of messages from an energy panel sponsored by Bloomberg Government that included Senator Isakson. The senator, or more likely a member of his communications staff who runs the account, sent a few retweets and a typical banal tweet that one comes to expect from most official Senate accounts: “Johnny is discussing the #futureofenergy at @BGOV this morning. Watch the live stream” with a link and picture.
Every day, Politwoops shares a new batch of deletions from politicians honing a message, picking a better picture to share, adding better hashtags to reach the right audience or any number of reasons, but these regrets occur seconds or minutes after first sharing it with their followers. What was so unusual about these deletions from Sen. Isakson was that timestamp showed they were removed after being publicly available for 26 weeks.
In the months following those initial deletions in early August, we’ve seen Sen. Isakson continue this pattern with remarkable consistency, deleting more than 100 tweets that are 26 weeks old from his public feed at around 11 pm. The messages that his office removed include a message about winning an award, a press release, an interaction with a constituent, his position on a topical issue and other typical activities for a politician on Twitter.
One of Sunlight’s scrupulous developers, Drew Vogel, examined the deletions and suspects they were being done mechanically based on the unusually consistent timing, suggesting that Sen. Isakson’s office was relying on one of the many services to help Twitter users scrub their tweets from the public eye, a suspicion later confirmed by his staff. TweetDelete and TweetDeleter are two services that offer Twitter users the ability to automatically remove tweets older than a set number of days. TweetDeleter describes itself as “The easiest way to get rid of your old, irrelevant and drunk-tweets with just a few clicks.”
When asked why Senator Isakson’s feed removed a tweet that read “Wishing you and your family and joyous and Happy Easter!” the office confirmed there was no rhyme or reason in terms of messaging why these deletions occurred. As congressional offices continue to hone their social media best practices, Politwoops will be there to spot more unusual situations like this. Stay tuned to Politwoops to see if these deletions continue or to view the archive of what was removed.