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Twitter change leaves huge gaps in websites

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Embedded tweets later deleted now show a blank box

An example of the blank box that’s now shown.
Screenshot: Twitter

Twitter has made a small but significant change to how deleted tweets are shown when they’re embedded in third-party websites. Since at least the end of March the social media network has started showing a blank box on external sites when an embedded tweet has been deleted. The change was detailed in a blog post from Kevin Marks.

It’s a big change from how Twitter used to handle deleted-yet-embedded tweets, when it would preserve the original unformatted text. With this recent change, that text is now gone, leaving a hole inside any story that embedded it.

How deleted embedded tweets used to display.
Screenshot: Web Archive
How they display now.
Screenshot: The Verge

According to Twitter senior product manager Eleanor Harding, the change was made “to better respect when people have chosen to delete their tweets.” But it also impacts any tweets that have been removed for other reasons, like when the account that posted them has been suspended.

The biggest example here is the account of former US President Donald Trump, whose account was suspended in early 2021. It means that hundreds of articles that embedded Trump’s posts (including from The Verge and Vox) no longer work, in a classic case of “link rot.”

Twitter’s explanation for the change.
Screenshot: Twitter.com

This doesn’t mean that Trump’s tweets are gone forever. Since his suspension from the platform third-party archives have emerged to catalog his posts, and other services exist to track deleted tweets from public officials. But Twitter’s change makes it a lot harder to view these tweets in the context of the news stories written about them.

As noted by Marks, Twitter is using its embedded Javascript to blank out the tweets. To see the original text you can disable Javascript in your browser.

It’s odd, to say the least, that Twitter would make a change of this magnitude without some kind of warning. Twitter seems to have rolled out the change even before updating its support documents that still describe the old behavior of deleted tweets. The Verge has reached out to Twitter for comment and will update this story with any response.

News of Twitter’s changes to embedded deleted tweets has emerged just hours after the company officially announced it was working on an edit button for the service, allowing users to change the contents of tweets after they’ve been posted. The feature has prompted concerns that users will be able to edit statements that are an important matter of public record.