Monday, May 16, 2022

Twitter change leaves huge holes in websites

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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.

Twitter has made a small but significant change to the way deleted tweets are displayed when embedded in third-party websites. Since at least the end of March the social media network has started showing an empty box on external sites when an embedded tweet is deleted. The change was detailed in a blog post from Kevin Marks

It’s a big change from the way Twitter handled deleted-yet-embedded tweets, when it kept the original unformatted text. With this recent change, that text is now gone, leaving a hole in any story it’s embedded in.

How deleted embedded tweets were displayed.
Screenshot: Web Archive

According to Twitter Senior Product Manager Eleanor Harding, the change was made “to better respect when people chose to delete their tweets.” But it also affects tweets that have been deleted for other reasons, such as when the account that posted them has been suspended.

The biggest example here is the account of former US President Donald Trump, whose account was suspended in early 2021. It means that hundreds of articles embedding Trump’s messages (including from The edge and Vox) no longer work, in a classic case of “link rot”.

Twitter’s explanation for the change.

This doesn’t mean Trump’s tweets are gone forever. Since his suspension from the platform third party archives have come forward to catalog his messages, and other services exist to follow deleted tweets from officials. But Twitter’s change makes it a lot harder to view these tweets in the context of the news stories written about them.

As noted by Marks, Twitter uses the built-in Javascript to erase the tweets. To see the original text you can disable Javascript in your browser.

It’s strange to say the least that Twitter would make a change of this magnitude without any sort of warning. Twitter appears to have rolled out the change even before updating support documents that still describing the old behavior of deleted tweets. The edge has reached out to Twitter for comment and will update this story with any response.

The news about Twitter’s changes to embedded deleted tweets comes just hours after the company officially announced it was working on an edit button for the service that would allow users to change the content of tweets after they’ve been posted. The feature has raised concerns that users may be able to edit statements that are an important public matter.

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