I like quoting people's Tweets in my blog posts. But, sometimes, people delete their Tweets. This blog post examines two questions.
- How to preserve Tweets in blog posts that they are still readable even after the user deletes them.
- Whether this is morally acceptable behaviour.
Let's tackle the easy question first.
Using the WordPress OEmbed feature, I can just paste in a URl like
And have it appear as a fully hydrated Tweet object.
I'd check with the person whose tweet you're embedding and see if they mind you taking a screenshot as backup. I auto delete old tweets but I'd probably be ok if you asked me. Others, probably not so much.
— Kate Bevan (@katebevan) January 3, 2021
If that Tweet has been deleted - here's what it looked like:
The JetPack plugin should retrieve the Tweet data and embed it into the post as a
<blockquote> like this:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">I'd check with the person whose tweet you're embedding and see if they mind you taking a screenshot as backup. I auto delete old tweets but I'd probably be ok if you asked me. Others, probably not so much.</p> <p>— Simply having a wonderful Katemastime 🎄 (@katebevan) <a href="https://twitter.com/katebevan/status/1345669092229992448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 3, 2021</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p>
widgets.js should then turn that into an OEmbed
So, if the Tweet is deleted, it'll render something like this:
But, occasionally, it will fail and the Tweet will render as just a broken link. In this case, the author has deleted their 2nd Tweet:
- Do nothing. Either hope that it works, or accept the occasional failure.
- Raise a bug with JetPack.
- Take a screenshot. Tedious to implement and difficult to integrate so that the image only shows if the Tweet is deleted.
- Link deleted Tweets to an archive.org link. For some reason, the Internet Archive doesn't contain every Tweet - so it is a bit hit and miss.
I think that I'm going to raise a bug with JetPack and find a way to auto submit all the URls in my post to archive.org - but I'm keen to know if there is a better way. Comments in the box, please!
Is this morally OK?
There are lots of reasons why people delete their Tweets - or their entire Twitter accounts. Ranging from just being bored of the site, to wanting to avoid the notoriety of a popular or controversial post. I've noticed that some of the extremely popular Tweets quoted in academic literature are no longer available.
Should we respect people's wishes and their right to be forgotten?
Or, should people accept that it is (nearly) impossible to delete something from the web?
I usually don't ask people if I can quote them. Occasionally I will - especially if it is an account with a small following, or a friend who has posted something controversial. I'm conscious that not everyone wants attention. Viz:
Each day on twitter there is one main character. The goal is to never be it
— maple cocaine (@maplecocaine) January 3, 2019
I'm generally of the opinion that when content is posted to the Internet, it is "fair dealing" to quote it. But not everyone agrees:
I agree that that is the way to go for Tweets that are accessed through the API, but when single Tweets are cited in an article, it's different. Similar to how you can quote copyrighted material within certain limits.
— Luca Hammer (@luca) January 3, 2021
I think morally yes, it is ok. If something was written for public consumption, then deleted it is still owned publicly. Even in contrast, history is littered with notes and text that weren't made public and we have assumed public ownership later.
— Zoë Turner (@Letxuga007) January 3, 2021
If someone asks me to remove a Tweet - I think would. Unless it was so historically important that I felt it should stay up. In which case, I might redact the user's details.
This is confusing. And I don't quite know what to think. Help?