Any tweet you've ever made is now indexed and searchable, which could prove embarrassing or worse if, for example, you regularly tweeted snarky comments about Bill Gates years ago when you worked as an Apple "Genius," but now find yourself managing a Microsoft Store. Twitter is now allowing you to search for old tweets you regret -- and delete them.
However, if you've been using Twitter for a few years it might take some time and effort. And your Twitter "right to be forgotten" might not be as complete as the one offered by Google.
Twitter has now finished indexing every public tweet ever made since the 140-character-or-less social networking service launched in 2006, the company announced Tuesday on its Engineering Blog. That amounts to "roughly half a trillion documents" (i.e., tweets) that are now fully searchable, according to search infrastructure engineer Yi Zhuang.
No Bulk Deletion Option
To find and eliminate old tweets you no longer want the public to see, you could start with Twitter's search functions. While the regular search hunts by simple keywords, the advanced version lets you get more specific with fields for hashtags, language, people and account names, locations, dates and even sentiment (positive or negative).
You could also sign in and browse your tweets until you find the ones you want to get rid of (you can only eliminate your own tweets, not those from others on your Timeline). Once you've located a questionable tweet, you'll need to click the More icon, which then gives you the option to select, "Delete Tweet." As Twitter noted, "Deleted tweets sometimes hang out in Twitter search, [but] they will clear with time."
Unfortunately, Twitter doesn't provide a way -- short of killing your existing account and starting over again with a new one -- to extinguish old tweets en masse. (Batch deletions are possible, however, via various third-party apps like Tweet Deleter, Tweet Eraser and TwitWipe.) If you suspect your worst tweets are some of your earliest ones, however, you can use Twitter's First Tweet search function and work your way backwards, eliminating one tweet after another from the beginning.
Library of Congress Archive Not Included
The good news is, when you delete a tweet, it also disappears (eventually) from Twitter's search results, as well as from any accounts that follow you. Any retweets of that item by others will also be deleted.
The bad news, though, is that -- as with almost every other comment made online -- what happens on Twitter doesn't stay just on Twitter. If someone copied and pasted your old tweet into his own tweet, that will remain. So, too, will any tweets that ended up being quoted on sites elsewhere.
There's also the fact that the U.S. Library of Congress has -- as part of its mission to "collect the story of America" -- also acquired an archive of every public tweet ever. As of early last year, it hadn't yet made that archive available to researchers. However, it did note that the archive could eventually provide valuable insights into everything from citizen journalism to vaccination rates and stock market activity.