In early December, Twitter plans to delete inactive accounts. That may seem fine, especially for anyone who's had their eye on a handle occupied by an egg that hasn't tweeted since 2009, but what if that account belongs to someone who died? A new project called Twittering Dead will preserve your deceased loved one's Twitter, so you can revisit it even after the purge.
On Tuesday, Twitter began warning users who haven't logged on for six months that their accounts will be deleted by December 11. Of course, there are definitely accounts out there that people made and forgot, so there's nothing inherently wrong about wanting to clean up those. However, people die, and unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn't give you a way to memorialize their accounts.
That's why Jason Scott, a digital preservationist and curator for the Internet Archive, created the Twittering Dead Project. You may be familiar with Scott's name because he's the one who saved thousands of Myspace songs when they were accidentally deleted.
To participate in the project, all you have to do is fill out a Google Form. From there, the account will get backed up "as best as current technology allows". If the account is deleted in December, that archive will be put up for browsing.
A Twitter account getting deleted if the owner is deceased may not seem like a big deal. But, these accounts matter to people who are still around and grieving their loss. Tweets are a way to look back at history, see jokes you might've shared, pictures, private message exchanges, and more.
Right now, the most that Twitter does to save accounts is let you download a Twitter archive. You can only download the archive of the account you're currently logged into, though, which means it's not an option if you don't have a deceased person's login information.
You don't have to worry about the upcoming purge if you've at least logged onto an account in the past six months. It doesn't matter if anybody actually tweeted from it, per Twitter's inactive account policy.
"We're working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter," a spokesperson told CNN Business. "Part of this effort is encouraging people to actively log in."
Social media has become so ingrained to many people's daily lives that these accounts are like a living tribute. A Twitter spokesperson told the Verge that the company is thinking about ways to memorialize accounts. Hopefully, it's something that Twitter actually follows up on.