Can you really delete a tweet?

The lovely James Firth has just announced that he will “delete all my old tweets, and only keep the last month or so”.  I think he is being foolish as I don’t believe it’s possible to delete things off the interwebs.  As such I decided to find out which of us was right!

The Test

  1. Post a tweet (Done 20th Sept 2010).
  2. Wait for it to be picked up by search engines and search tools.
  3. Delete the tweet (Done 25th Oct 2010).
  4. Wait to see how long it takes for the tweet to be deleted from these sites.

The Tweet

This is the tweet I will be deleting…

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/dogsbodyorg/status/25050638391″]

I’m embedding it with the Blackbird Pie WordPress plugin, It will be interesting to see if it goes from here too!

The Results

Will be posted here when I have done the test.  Add me to Twitter or subscribe to my RSS to find out! 😉

  • GoogleDeleted but took over 2 months.
  • Google RealtimeDeleted in less than 24 hours.
  • Bing – The tweet never appeared in their search.  Can’t test.
  • Yahoo!Deleted but took over 2 months.
  • TweetMeme – The tweet never appeared in their search.  Can’t test.
  • TwitpicNot much you can do if someone takes a picture of the tweet.
  • RetweetThere is nothing you can do if someone has already retweeted you
  • Embedded with Blackbird PieNot Deleted from this site.
  • topsy.comStill appearing in the Topsy index as of 28 Feb 2011.
  • flavors.meStill appearing in embedded sites as of 28 Feb 2011.

If you have written something news worthy that someone else has blogged about or discussed then no, that content can obviously be copied and quoted without issue.  And while tweets about your breakfast may be deleted by large sites such as Google and Yahoo there are plenty more that do not honour Twitters deletion protocols.

In short, I wouldn’t bother deleting things of the Internet.  All you are doing is making work for yourself.

Any other sites? Suggest them in the comments.

The Firehose

This is not a new test.  Until recently deleted tweets weren’t removed from Twitter’s official search resulting in services such as Tweleted.  With more and more sites drinking from the Twitter firehose (Twitters name for having a live feed of public status updates) it will be come harder and harder to stop tweets from being archived which is why I think it’s important to test this every once in a while.

Interestingly Twitter have blurred the line of firehose access with the launch of their new streaming service as a lot of companies that want to drink from the firehose only actually want a subset of the data.  e.g. TweetMeme only needs to index tweets with a URL in them. The Streaming API help has this to say about deleted tweets…

Streams may also contain status deletion notices. Clients are urged to honor deletion requests and discard deleted statuses immediately. At times, status deletion messages may arrive before the status. Even in this case, the late arriving status should be deleted from your backing store.

… urge != must.  It’s not in their T&Cs either that I can see.

I believe there are at least tens of full firehose users and hundreds of streaming users if not hundreds and thousands respectively.  Either way, the number is only going up!

Oh and we aren’t just talking websites and services here. The US Library of Congress has access to every public tweet ever written 😉

P.S.

  • I started creating a list of Twitter Firehose users as I don’t believe any such list exists.  Feel free to update and add to it, it’s public 🙂
  • I have been told to “play nice”, this is not a personal attack on James at all who is a top bloke, this is just an open debate and test.

2 thoughts on “Can you really delete a tweet?

  1. It may take Google six month before indexing again. But the REAL problems are all twitter clones having copied your content. They do not delete your tweets when you delete yours. Topys you need to login to and synch. But I not think all third party have that option. And if a third party becomes index by Goggle – you are stuck.

    This may be a integrity problem. Think if someone dies and he/she or the family wants to delete the content. The copyrights are properly set up by Twitter but I do not think people know or understands about what it means.

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