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Twitter halts plan to remove inactive accounts until it can memorialize dead users

Twitter halts plan to remove inactive accounts until it can memorialize dead users


The company apologized for confusion around its plan to remove accounts

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter has followed up with more details surrounding its plan to remove inactive accounts over the coming months. First, the company says the process “impacts accounts in the EU only, for now.” That important tidbit wasn’t made clear when the news broke on November 26th. But far more important is that Twitter has recognized that it can’t go around deleting accounts until it finds a way to preserve the accounts of people who’ve died.

“We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased. This was a miss on our part,” the company tweeted today. “We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorize accounts.” Emails sent by Twitter on Tuesday warned that any account that’s gone inactive for more than six months could be subject to removal if customers fail to log in by December 11th. Now, presumably that deadline will shift.

Facebook offers a way for user accounts to be memorialized after the account owner has died. Twitter has yet to offer such a function, but yesterday, a spokesperson told The Verge that “the team is thinking about ways to do this.” Now, the company is pledging that it won’t start removing accounts (and freeing up usernames) until that system is in place.

After the initial announcement, a lot of people immediately raised the possibility of losing access to the old accounts of friends, partners, family members, celebrities, and other influential Twitter users who’ve died. But you no longer have to worry about them getting swept into the pool of inactive accounts due for removal.

Although Twitter says account removal will focus on the EU to start — owing to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations — it could expand to other countries eventually. “We may broaden the enforcement of our inactivity policy in the future to comply with other regulations around the world and to ensure the integrity of the service,” Twitter said. “We will communicate with all of you if we do. We apologize for the confusion and concerns we caused and will keep you posted.”

When Twitter does eventually get around to enforcing the inactivity policy, a number of usernames will likely free up as a result of dormant accounts being removed. That’s the upside of this change, though many people can also expect to see their number of followers drop as accounts start vanishing.