If you've lost a loved one, but still take a comforting scroll through their old tweets from time to time — well, we might have some bad news.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk took to the social media platform yesterday to declare that Twitter was preparing to mass-eradicate inactive accounts from the platform, warning users beforehand that they might see their follower counts drop as a result.
"We're purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years," read Musk's announcement tweet, "so you will probably see follower count drop."
All fine and good, but, uh, one problem: culling inactive accounts doesn't just mean that random old businesses and expired bot accounts get removed from the site. It also means that the social media archives of dead people get removed from the platform — and pulling the plug without much care means that some folks lose lost loved ones' digital archives.
In other words, the repercussions from this move go deeper than a drop in follower count.
As journalist Matt Binder pointed out, Musk's brash choice is so controversial that Twitter's previous leadership had made a similar announcement back in 2019, but when met with intense user pushback, chose to forgo such a purge.
Concerned once again that they would lose these treasured archives, users unsurprisingly quickly flocked to Musk's replies to decry the Twitter owner's announcement, urging the app owner to reconsider.
"This will include several people who are no more but their words and interactions still remain as a fond memory to their friends/family," added another. "Don't do this."
A notable name in the comments? Doom creator, VR pioneer, and chief Meta antagonist John Carmack, who took a different — but compelling — offense to the purge.
"I may be reading this incorrectly, but if you are actually deleting inactive accounts and all their historic tweets, I would STRONGLY urge you to reconsider," tweeted Carmack. "I still see people liking ten-year-old tweets I made, but the threads are already often fragmented with deleted or unavailable tweets. Don't make it worse!"
"Some may scoff at any allusion between Twitter and ancient libraries, but while the burning of the library of Alexandria was a tragedy, scrolls and books that were tossed in the trash just because nobody wanted to keep them are kind of worse," he added. "Save it all!"
Musk did respond to Carmack, assuaging the VR visionary that "the accounts will be archived." But Musk didn't give any details as to what that archival process might look like, and considering that Twitter breaks down more or less constantly these days, we're not totally convinced that he can soundly deliver that process.
To that end, it's also worth noting that postmortem archival processes an incredibly complex realm of our digital lives. Facebook has taken the time to hash out a pretty sound postmortem policy, but that's been a long time coming; Twitter's postmortem policy, on the other hand, is much less satisfactory. And if Musk really goes through with mass-deleting inactive users? That blows any such policy to smithereens, anyway.
In any case, if you and your family might be impacted by any inactive handle purge, you might want to take some preemptive screenshots.
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