Saturday, September 23, 2023

A Twitter bug is recovering deleted tweets and retweets, including my own

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Earlier this year, on May 8, I deleted all my tweets, just under 5,000. I know the exact day because I tweeted about it.

However, this morning I discovered that Twitter has restored a handful of my old re-tweets; interactions i know I scrubbed off my profile. Those retweets were gone. I remember happily inspecting my bare timeline before thinking, “great, time to draw attention to myself.” But now they’re back. You can see them by scrolling through my timeline after May 8, and more will appear if you “tweets with replies.”

I remember deleting all my tweets because I tweeted about it

The re-tweets themselves are completely mundane. There is a video of children cheering on a construction worker. a Sopranos meme about Lindy (remember Linda?). But the oldest dates from 2020 – a video of the George Floyd protests I would have shared as they were happening. Why the hell is Twitter restoring three year old information? And what does it say about the platform’s users’ ability to manage their own data? Nothing good of course.

I’m not alone in noticing deleted tweets resurfacing recently. I only checked my timeline after seeing a post on Mastodon (via Ryan Broderick’s newsletter) in which a user complained about it on May 17 34,000 of his deleted tweets had been restored.

“Last November I deleted all my tweets. Each. Then I ran Redact and deleted all my likes, my media and retweets,” said open source developer Dick Morrell. “Woke up today and 34,000 of them recovered [sic] Twitter supposedly brought back a server farm. Now delete again. This shows why you should never use Twitter.”

It is not clear how widespread this problem is or what causes it. It may be due to the tool used to delete tweets (although I used while Morrell said he used To process), while some do speculated it is caused by Twitter’s servers being moved and the data being accidentally restored. ZDNET reports Morrell said more than 400 people had told him they’d had similar problems, while a brief overview of my colleagues at The edge who have been mass deleting tweets have had mixed results. Some said their old tweets were still gone, while others said it looked like some had come back.

There has been an increase in Twitter bugs since the Musk acquisition

Whatever happens, it’s yet another demonstration of Twitter’s crumbling infrastructure and inability to deliver even the basic functions it promises users. Some of these shortcomings predate Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company. (See, for example, the long-standing problem of properly deleting direct messages.) But there has been an increase in bugs since Musk initiated mass layoffs, with users reporting similar glitches as private tweets is made public.

For me the issue is trivial. It’s just a few old retweets. But it points to a bigger problem. Twitter is continues to be an important resource for activists, whistleblowers and protesters around the world. There is a reason why Turkey forces the company to do so block certain tweets during the current elections. Twitter still matters. But if you’re a political dissident in an authoritarian country, for example, the ability to delete your own tweets can be crucial to your freedom. For all of Musk’s free speech talk, the company doesn’t seem to care.

While writing this story, I emailed Twitter’s press line to see if anyone would like to comment, just for form’s sake. I have the automated response the company now sends to any request, no matter how polite or necessary: ​​”💩”. I deleted it.

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