Update: Twitter Won’t Purge Inactive Accounts Yet

UPDATE: November 27, 2019

Twitter, which was planning to rid its platform of all accounts inactive for six or more months, has put a stop to the mass purge that was set to go into effect on December 11, 2019. In response to feedback from users (presumably, it’s not clarified), Twitter support said in a series of tweets that “We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased, and “will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialize accounts.”

Twitter did say that the purge will still impact the EU, however, in order to comply with its privacy regulations outlined by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. The social media platform also noted that it’s “always had an inactive account policy but [that it hasn’t] enforced it consistently.”

The reaction from Twitter users, at least according to the hundreds of comments posted in response to the tweets announcing the halt to the purge, seemed to be mostly positive. Although there were still some people who said that they wanted the account deletions to take place in order to purge them of their own unused accounts that they no longer had access to. Harris Wittels’ account, which was highlighted as one example of a deceased person’s beloved account at risk of being deleted, did not respond to the halt, as it had when news of Twitter’s intended purge first broke. (His sister tweeted from his account.)

Starting on December 11 of this year, Twitter will be purging its platform of user accounts that have been inactive for six months or longer. The company hasn’t made an official announcement via its own Twitter account, or CEO Jack Dorsey’s account. However, owners of the inactive accounts have received an email from the company warning them that they need to log in by December 11 or will have their accounts removed.

The move to purge the platform of inactive accounts was first reported by the BBC’s Silicon Valley reporter, Dave Lee. Lee, who wrote up a BBC article on the planned round of account deletions (which comes via Engadget), said that the impetus for the purge is the inability to agree to updated terms of service by inactive account holders. A Twitter spokeswoman who spoke with Lee told him that the purge will have other beneficial effects. Among these, providing more accurate follower numbers; many Twitter accounts not only have inflated follower numbers from bots, but also from these types of inactive accounts.

In regards to the definition of “inactive,” that’s simply a matter of whether or not a user has logged into the account within the past six months. It’s not whether they’ve posted or actually interacted with anybody on the platform in any way. Which means any lurkers out there who don’t like posting, retweeting, or handing out hearts don’t have to worry about losing their accounts. Twitter did tell Lee, however, that it will take a look at accounts that “don’t ‘do anything,'” but that’s likely to be an effort to uncover bot accounts.

Twitter’s move will mean that inactive account names will once again be up for grabs. Often times these inactive accounts have desirable names that have been claimed only for the sake of claiming them. However, many people are still worried about how the changes will affect accounts of the deceased. One inactive account that is receiving a lot of attention on the platform is that of Harris Wittels, a comedy writer who passed away in 2015. Wittels, who wrote on popular television series including Parks and Recreation and The Sarah Silverman Program, was highly active on Twitter, with many of his one-liner joke tweets earning thousands of retweets and likes.

Wittels’ sister, Stephanie, recently tweeted from his account, saying, in part, that “Twitter is going to start deleting inactive accounts in December, and it would be a goddamn tragedy if this account got sucked into oblivion. So I’m tweeting to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Because no official statement has been made on Twitter’s own Twitter account or its blog, there’s only speculation at this point as to how Twitter will proceed with accounts of the deceased. The platform did tell The Verge that “We do not currently have a way to memorialize someone’s Twitter account once they have passed on, but the team is thinking about ways to do this.” Twitter also told The Verge that the purge “will happen over many months,” and it has also been reported that the deletions will begin with accounts based outside of the U.S.

What do you think about Twitter’s move to purge its platform of inactive accounts? Is there any specific way you’d like to see Twitter handle accounts of the deceased? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Images: Twitter 

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