As a policy, it seems like a no brainer. Twitter had announced plans to notify dormant account holders that if they didn’t log in by December 11, their account could be removed and their handles recycled. That makes sense considering that there are probably hundreds of thousands of profiles that were created but haven’t been accessed for years.
Many of those accounts belong to people who stopped using the platform for any number of reasons. Some might have forgotten their password or created a new account. Some just gave up on Twitter all together. Some, however, belong to people who have passed on from more than just the Twitterverse–they’ve passed on from this life. And many of those accounts belong to people we love and miss dearly.
In fact, a writer at TechCrunch, Drew Olanoff, pointed out that he often revisits the Twitter-feed of his deceased father. He doesn’t have the login credentials, meaning that the account would have been deleted, cutting off that connection to his dad.
Yes, it appears Twitter forgot that some people might have stopped using Twitter because they died.
We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased. 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.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 27, 2019
As a result, Twitter has announced it won’t remove any accounts until it figures out how to offer the ability to “memorialize” them when the user passes way. Facebook already offers this as a way for people to visit the profile and reflect on memories of someone they love. While no new content can be added, the profile remains.
Of course Facebook is slightly different since people spend years sharing photos, stories, and posts about their lives. And since Facebook doesn’t use handles the way Twitter does, there’s no reason to free them up. That’s apparently the motivation for Twitter’s original decision: that there are any number of user names that can’t be used by current and new users because they are essentially “locked up” in an inactive account.
Look, I’m all for the idea that if you aren’t actually using your account for years (on a free service no less) you’re probably going to give up the right to your username at some point. And Twitter has every right to do what it wants with old accounts, but it is a little surprising that no one at the company thought about the fact that some of those accounts might belong to people who died. Or that some of those accounts might be worth preserving because they represent a part of a life that someone might want to remember.
I’m not sure what a memorialized Twitter account would look like, or how it would even work, but I guess the company deserves credit for realizing its mistake and putting on hold any plans that would remove those accounts.
There are plenty of things worth forgetting on Twitter, but accounts that once belonged to the people we love aren’t one of them.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.