Most members of Congress don’t like to talk about their deleted tweets and regularly ignore my requests for comment, but there’s one member who explains deletions before I even ask: Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.
When a deletion shows up in Politwoops, it can be challenging to divine the context and reason for its removal. Was it a minor typo that they never bothered to fix in a replacement tweet? Was it a potential political liability? Was it a staffer in the wrong account? Was the information wrong? When it’s not clear, I ask why and rarely hear back.
Farenthold, like many active politicians on Twitter, makes mistakes and occasionally deletes a tweet. The difference is that he will often follow up a deletion with a tweet explaining what happened, which he then deletes so it appears in Politwoops next to the original deletion. This week he deleted a tweet with two Twitter handles and then deleted an explanation for it, saying, “Someone accidentally pocket tweeted on that last one.” The deleted explanation and the original deletion show up together in Politwoops, as seen in the photo to the right.
Adding context to a deletion with a simple explanation keeps the removed tweet from being taken out of context and humanizes the politician by showing nobody is above simple mistakes — when most politicians refuse to admit or show any flaws in messaging. When reached for comment on this unusual policy, a spokesman for Farenthold said:
Quite frankly, once something is on the internet you’re never getting it back. With Twitter, the Congressman believes even if something goes out that is then deleted people should know why. So the office policy is to proactively explain deleted tweets.
Farenthold’s account first implemented this strategy way back in June of 2013, when Farenthold deleted this picture on the left along with a message saying, “Sun ruins the photo bit I’m about to board my first @AmericanAir flight.” After 17 minutes the tweet was deleted, and a few minutes later another deletion showed up explaining, “I deleted that last tweet because I got a better picture when the tail of another plane blocked the sun.” That tweet with the better picture attached, appeared a few minutes later and is still on his official feed.
This policy of doing damage control before others notice stands in stark contrast to the attitude embodied in a new app called Clear, created by Ethan Czahor. The app scans a user’s social media accounts to flag posts that could pose a liability so they can be deleted before anyone notices. Czahor is familiar with this issue: He resigned due to old statements disparaging women and gay men on social media a day after being hired as the chief technology officer of the political action committee for likely 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush. An attempt to test the app was met with a waiting list numbering nearly 20,000, but if any politicians in Politwoops attempt to remove tweets, you know where you can find them.
Have a great weekend, and email me if you notice any politicians we’re missing in our system.