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The social media giant has some explaining to do.
The internet came together against United Airlines this week after a Facebook video posted Sunday showed a man being forcefully dragged off his flight. The video went viral, and everyone took to Twitter to do what they do best: panic, get angry, and post funny memes. But as the Next Web points out, some of the posts seem to be disappearing from the social network.
Here are some of the users claiming their tweets about #united were removed:
Very strange- twitter seem to be deleting negative tweets about @united Airlines, including mine...— Jay Beecher (@Jay_Beecher) April 10, 2017
So, twitter just decided to delete my United tweet— Lola (@Phenominahde) April 11, 2017
Funny... I tweeted @united earlier today to ask about my flight next week and the tweet is deleted. Begging to regret booking with them.— BitterB (@iknowimbitter) April 11, 2017
My tweet about #united was deleted. But that will not stop what happened being talked about.— Terry Arnold (@TalkIBC) April 11, 2017
Anybody else tweet about @united and had your tweet deleted?— Mick Ferry (@MickFerry) April 10, 2017
Others also appear to have noticed this trend.
Soooo... Will Twitter also delete my tweet if it has anything to do with United? #justsaying— ksl (@chsaeba) April 11, 2017
Why might this be happening? Twitter says all posts are viewable by everyone as long as they don’t break the site’s content boundaries, contain abusive behavior, and aren’t spam. That theoretically means the only way a rule-abiding tweet can be deleted is by the user who posts it.
Jay Beecher told the Next Web a number of his tweets were deleted and can’t be recovered:
“I think that they might have been deleting any [tweets] that had the United Airlines tag on them.
“I found [the deleting] was pretty much automatic. I would put the tweet up, click refresh or go to another page and then return to mine, and the tweet would have disappeared.”
But Twitter could step in if the tweets in question contain abusive behavior. The platform says abuse, including behavior that “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice,” is not allowed on the site. The Twitter rules go on to outline seven subsections of abusive behavior: violent threats (direct or indirect), harassment, hateful conduct, multiple account abuse, private information, impersonation, and self-harm.
Since they’ve been deleted, we don’t have the original tweets to reference. But they have been described as fairly innocuous and would not fall into any of the categories outlined above. That leaves us with a few possibilities for why posts are being deleted: users deleted the tweets themselves (or they never existed), the tweets are still there but difficult to find, the original content was not as innocent as described and did not follow Twitter’s rules, or Twitter is breaking its own policies by deleting posts that do not violate its terms of service.
That last possibility has some people suggesting Twitter might be helping United with damage control.
Interestingly, #united is on longer trending on Twitter, despite the topic’s continued popularity. My own page does show #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos (definitely worth a quick look), so it at least appears Twitter isn’t trying to extinguish the conversation. It should also be noted that the Twitter Moments page is distributing coverage of the incident.
We have reached out to Twitter for clarification on deleted posts and will update this article accordingly.
H/T the The Next Web
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.