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Twitter delays mass account deletion after user backlash

Users demand a tool for memorializing accounts of those who have passed away

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Twitter has temporarily suspended its plans to delete a huge number of accounts which haven't been logged into for the past six months.

The pause comes after user backlash over what will happen to accounts belonging to people who have passed away. Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not offer a way to memorialize an account, turning the page into a place to remember dead friends and relatives.

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Twitter had wanted to delete millions of accounts in a bid to free up desirable usernames which current users would be able to claim for themselves. On the face of it, this is a good way for users to get the account name they've always wanted - just their first name, for example - and for companies to claim accounts back from users 'squatting' on them and not tweeting.

But users quickly said how they like to look at the accounts of deceased friends and relatives as a way to remember them fondly.

Twitter's Support account tweeted on Wednesday evening, first explaining why it needs to clear out old and unused accounts: "This impacts accounts in the EU only, for now. We've always had an inactive account policy but we haven't enforced it consistently. We're starting with the EU in part due to local privacy regulations (eg, GDPR)."

On the issues raised by users about the accounts of people who have passed away, Twitter said: "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 added: "Beyond complying with GDPR, we may broaden the enforcement of our inactivity policy in the future to comply with other regulations around the world and to ensure the integrity of the service...We apologize for the confusion and concerns we caused and will keep you posted."

Twitter had begun contacting users on Monday if they hadn't logged into their account in the last six months. They were asked to log in and agree to Twitter's latest terms and conditions, and warned that if they did not, their account might be deleted and their username be made available to someone else.

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