Twitter Inactive Account Purge Could See 'Donald Trump,' 'Mitch McConnell' and 'Mike Pompeo' Handles Become Available

Twitter has confirmed that any accounts that have been inactive for more than six months will face deletion unless the profile owner logs in before December 11.

The move sparked concerns on the social network after reports emerged that the cull will impact the accounts of users who are deceased. While questions now linger about how widespread the purge will actually be, Twitter says it is currently emailing users who have at-risk profiles.

A Twitter spokesperson told the BBC the reason was not to free-up usernames, but to make sure users are up-to-date with the website's privacy policies.

"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," read the official company response sent to Newsweek.

"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," the statement continued. "We have begun proactive outreach to many accounts who have not logged into Twitter in over six months to inform them their accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity."

While there will no doubt be several caveats to the policy, a slew of account handles that appear to be inactive could soon become available, including @DonaldTrump, @MitchMcConnell, @mikepompeo, @WilburRoss, @BetsyDeVos, @Bourdain and @carrieffisher. It remains unspecified if account verification will play a role in how Twitter distinguishes handles.

It is not known if the owners of those Twitter handles have access to the vacant accounts, but under the policy as it is described by Twitter, they could potentially be at risk of deletion. Of course, all it would take to stop that would be for the account handle owner to log in.

According to the BBC, the process will first impact users outside of the U.S., and The Verge noted the website does not currently have a way to memorialize the accounts of deceased users. It's clear that many community concerns remain unanswered, but here is what we know so far.

The deadline is set for December 11

An email that is being sent to users reads: "To continue using Twitter you will need to agree to the current terms... you need to log in and follow the on-screen prompts before Dec. 11, 2019, otherwise your account will be removed from Twitter." It is still unknown just how many accounts will be impacted, and if the company will delete the handles of suspended users.

Account handles may become available to use

One of the first points to surface on social media was that dormant handles would soon be free for anyone to nab. A Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch that profile handles "may" become available to use but the process would not be immediate, instead rolling out over months. The Verge reported that Twitter no longer allows handles with fewer than five characters.

The purge is likely to impact deceased users

As the dust settled on the announcement, many people raised concerns about user accounts of dead users, asking if they will now be labeled as inactive. The BBC reported this would be the case unless someone with the login details signed in and accepted the updated policies.

Twitter doesn't offer a way to memorialize the accounts of dead users. As a result, the news has caused understandable distress for those who manage or can't access such accounts:

Twitter's current policy states that a person who is "authorized to act on behalf of the estate" or a "verified immediate family member" can request for a deceased user's account be removed. "We do not currently have a way to memorialize someone's Twitter account once they have passed on, however the team is thinking about ways to do this," a spokesperson told Newsweek.

The process won't actually impact user statistics

Even if the cull wipes out a slew of dormant accounts, long-forgotten profiles and bots, it won't have a negative impact on how many users the company has. Twitter's Q3 earnings report said Twitter has a "monetizable" daily active userbase of 145 million people. That is defined as users who logged into Twitter's main website or app and potentially engaged with advertising.

Update: Twitter has released a statement to say it will not delete inactive accounts until it creates a way to memorialize the accounts of deceased users.

In a series of tweets, the company said: "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. 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. 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 will communicate with all of you if we do."

Twitter's full inactive account policy is available to read online here.

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The Twitter logo is seen on a phone in this photo illustration in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2019. ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty
Twitter Inactive Account Purge Could See 'Donald Trump,' 'Mitch McConnell' and 'Mike Pompeo' Handles Become Available | Tech & Science