Twitter has deleted tweets that could be helpful to investigators currently examining Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social network during the 2016 presidential election, U.S. government cybersecurity officials told Politico.
According to the officials, Twitter is either unable or unwilling to retrieve a “substantial amount” of tweets from bots and fake users spreading disinformation. Those users, which have been tied to Russia, have since deleted those tweets.
It turns out, that’s how Twitter is supposed to work. Twitter’s guidelines for law enforcement merely state, “Content deleted by account holders (e.g., tweets) is generally not available.”
A Twitter spokesperson told Mashable that Twitter has “strong policies in place to protect the privacy of our users.” The company declined to comment on the specific deletion policy.
Historically, Twitter has been accused of being less than fully forthcoming with federal investigators. At its recent Senate briefing, Virginia senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called the company’s presentation “frankly inadequate on every level.”
Twitter sees things differently: “We have committed to working with committee investigators to address their questions to the best of our ability,” a company spokesperson told Mashable.
The company declined to comment on whether it is attempting to retrieve the deleted tweets, or whether it will present them to investigators if retrieved.
With access to all of the tweets from those accounts, the investigators might be better able to construct a timeline of events and figure out the account holders’ goals. But, depending on Twitter’s ability to reconstruct its own past, those tweets may be gone forever.