With the first Democratic presidential primary 6 months away, vast swaths of Americans are being bombarded with television ads and 24/7 news coverage in the highly contested race. While out on the campaign trail, reporters and opposition researchers alike will be scrutinizing candidates’ voting records, former employment, affiliations, and business dealings. In the era of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, what a candidate posts (or posted in the past) can also be placed under the microscope.
It’s hard to forget politicians of yesteryear whose own careers began to unravel after leaks of inappropriate social media content was shared with the public. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle one claims as home base, as evidenced by former Representatives Anthony Weiner (D) and Joe Barton (R) who got caught sending risqué photos through online apps. More recently, an Illinois State Representative faces revenge porn charges for distributing sexual photos of an ex-girlfriend on Instagram.
Social media can often make or break a campaign. It is not only important for politicians to be cautious of what they post during their campaign, but also of what they have posted on social media in years past. Investigators and journalists are diving deep into politicians’ social media accounts looking for discrepancies between past and current campaigning opinions, but what if the posts they are hoping to find have been deleted?
Politwoops, a product of ProPublica, tracks the deleted tweets of public officials—people currently in office and candidates running for office. Content is updated regularly. If a candidate is no longer running or an elected official is no longer in office, you can still see the deleted tweets up until the time they left the race or office.
Searching by name or topic will generate a list of twitter posts, including the handle, elected position and state, and political party. It will also note when the original tweet was posted and how many seconds, minutes, hours, days, or months lapsed before it was deleted. You can also narrow your search by choosing a specific state.
A search for “selfie,” for example, generated over 20 pages of tweets. With 20 tweets per page, that’s a lot of data to mine, so it’s recommended to narrow your search as much as you can by including additional information such as name and state.
In this case, you can see that Victoria Seaman, a former Republican member of the Nevada Assembly, is no longer being followed, because she no longer holds office. The post was deleted 2 hours after its initial post on April 10, 2018.
The other tweet, first posted by Debbie Lasko, an Arizona Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was deleted 35 weeks after it was originally posted on December 18, 2018.
Clicking on the “link” icon, will often offer more information about the deleted tweet. This tweet by Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, for example, was deleted and replaced with a second one—presumably due to the incomplete sentence in the first. Clicking on “the next tweet” will redirect you to his main Twitter account and the updated post.
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