Any account that hadn’t been signed into for more than six months was at risk of being deleted, but Twitter has now announced that the process will be delayed.
Speaking to The Verge, a Twitter spokesperson said: “As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we’re working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter.”
Initially, the account removal process was going to take place over the course of “many months - not just on a single day,'' according to the spokesperson.
This announcement falls in line with Twitter’s inactive account policy which says: “We encourage people to actively login and use Twitter when they register for an account. To keep your account active, be sure to log in and Tweet at least every six months. Accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity.”
Backlash from users
The decision to do this was met with concern from users who were worried about losing access to the accounts of friends, partners, family members and celebrities who have died.
One user wrote: “Please @Twitter don’t remove the accounts that are inactive due to the owners passing away. There are precious memories there that we would like to remember and that give us comfort each day. Please look into this with a heart of empathy and compassion, thank you.”
“I strongly suggest you don't do this for a multitude of reasons. The biggest being after passing, an old account stands as one of the only links some people have to others that are no longer with us,” another tweeted.
Halting the process
The Twitter Support account tweeted on November 27: “We’ve heard your feedback about our efforts to delete inactive accounts and want to respond and clarify.”
The account explained that the move would only affect accounts in the EU, for now. They are starting with the EU due to local privacy regulations, like GDPR.
“We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased,” it added. “This was a miss on our part. We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialize accounts.”
As it stands, Facebook offers a way for users to have accounts memorialised after the profile owner has passed away - Twitter does not have such a function.
The Twitter spokesperson said that in reference to memorialising accounts, “the team is thinking about ways to do this”.
The key takeaway from the Twitter thread giving updates about deleting inactive accounts is that Twitter will be holding off on this until a way for people to memorialise accounts has been created.
In the meantime, there is an initiative called the Twittering Dead project, launched by Internet Archive software curator and digital preservationist Jason Scott. If you’re interested in doing this, you can fill out the Google Form online here.
The project explains that “the account will be gathered up and put into an archive” when someone submits the account of a deceased person.
You can also download a Twitter account with an archive of all their tweets, but this only works if you have the login details for the account.
If you do have the login, all you need to do is:
- Go to account settings
- Go to settings and privacy
- Under account, click ‘your Twitter data’
- Enter the password to the account under the ‘download your Twitter data’ section and press confirm
- Then press the ‘request data’ option
From there, an email will be sent to the connected email address when the download is ready and you’ll receive a zip file of the Twitter archive.