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Dirty Delete: How to find dirty deletes on your own

Good luck digging up hideous internet gems powerful people don’t want you to see. 


Claire Goforth


Posted on Sep 8, 2023   Updated on Sep 9, 2023, 5:21 am CDT

Dirty Delete is a weekly column that goes deep into the social media history of politicians that runs on Thursdays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

Dirty Delete was conceived to expose the steaming hot garbage, conspiracies, and epic ratios that powerful political figures scatter throughout the internet like moldy breadcrumbs.

These people are well aware that their internet history will be mined for stories. The smarter ones delete embarrassing posts or whole accounts before they’re famous enough to inspire such digging.

But nobody’s perfect. And there are ways around even the savviest dirty deleter.

As this is my final column, I’m sharing tips and tricks of the dirty delete trade.

The simplest thing to do is just search for someone’s name or handle with “deleted.” ProPublica also maintains records of politicians’ deleted tweets through November 2022, when Twitter disabled the function.

Twitter advanced search and the Wayback Machine are my favorite tools for unearthing internet gold.

Advanced search on still-not-calling-it-X allows you to search for tweets based on time, keyword, accounts, engagement, and any combination thereof. Finding out what someone posted about black lives matter or during the Capitol riot, for example, can be rather revealing.

This only works if the post wasn’t deleted, however. That’s where the Wayback Machine and Archive.today come in. Both have been invaluable resources for this column.

Wayback has a larger cache of archived sites, and is easier to navigate. It also offers a browser extension so you can preserve Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) porn likes before it vanishes from the web. (Thanks to Mikael Thalen for this advice.)

Archives of previous versions of websites can be extremely useful. I’ve found statements out of alignment with someone’s current stance and old social media accounts they nuked as their profile grew.

People wise enough to delete posts or accounts where they yammered about adrenochrome and Jewish space lasers often forget to delete screenshots of the same from other accounts. I’ve unearthed old handles from my subjects’ own Facebook and Instagram accounts on more than one occasion. (Tip: Search for photos on Facebook—they load much faster.)

Twitter likes are another blindspot. Some people don’t seem to realize those are public. They also sometimes forget they had accounts on more mainstream sites like Pinterest.

Powerful people don’t always advertise that they’re on fringier platforms like Gab, Gettr, Truth Social, Rumble, and Telegram. It’s worth looking up their name and handle, but beware it could be an impersonator or satire.

Writing this column has been a blast. Thank you for reading and good luck digging up hideous internet gems powerful people don’t want you to see! 

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*First Published: Sep 8, 2023, 6:00 am CDT