Twitter Halts Plan to Start Deleting Inactive Accounts Until It Has Way to ‘Memorialize’ Those of Dead Users

Todd Spangler

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UPDATED: Twitter changed course on its plan to purge inactive accounts — telling users it won’t start deleting any accounts until it has developed a way to preserve the accounts of people who have died.

On Tuesday, the company said that as of Dec. 11, it will begin notifying users who haven’t logged in within the past six months that their accounts may be terminated.

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After users expressed concern that Twitter’s move to remove defunct accounts could wipe out those of people who have died, the company said it was putting the plans on hold and admitted it had botched the announcement.

“We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased,” the company said Wednesday. “This was a miss on our part. We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialize accounts.”

In another update to its plans, Twitter said the move to clean up inactive accounts — to start with — will apply only to users in the European Union, in part to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Twitter said the move was part of its ongoing efforts to improve the quality of the experience on the service, although it’s also designed to free up handles that aren’t being used. For the third quarter of 2019, the company reported 145 million “monetizable” daily active users. In the past, Twitter has said it deletes millions of bot, spam and other suspicious accounts each month.

“As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we’re working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter,” a company rep said in a statement. “Part of this effort is encouraging people to actively log in and use Twitter when they register an account, as stated in our Inactive Accounts Policy.”

While the initial enforcement of Twitter’s inactivity policy will cover only the EU, in the future it may widen the effort “to comply with other regulations around the world and to ensure the integrity of the service,” Twitter’s support team tweeted. “We will communicate with all of you if we do.”

Twitter’s terms of service already warn users that their accounts “may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity” and that to keep them active they should “be sure to log in and Tweet at least every 6 months.” Now the company is looking to more actively enforce the inactive-accounts policy once it has figured out a means to preserve dormant accounts of deceased users.

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