Just yesterday, Twitter revealed it would finally be enforcing its longstanding “use it or lose it” policy for accounts. If you didn’t log in for six months, your account would be deleted and your precious username would be up for grabs, the company announced.
Now that plan is on hold after a backlash from users focused on the inherent unfairness of accounts belonging to the dead being deleted with no recourse.
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“We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased,” the Twitter Support account tweeted last night. “This was a miss on our part. We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialise accounts.”
The company also offered some clarity as to why this long-dormant policy is suddenly being enforced, and it changes the complexion of it. For now, the plan is only to enforce it in Europe thanks to GDPR.
“We’ve always had an inactive account policy but we haven’t enforced it consistently,” the company tweeted. “We’re starting with the EU in part due to local privacy regulations (eg, GDPR).
“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.”
In other words, the pool of usernames likely to come available is actually far smaller than expected, given it only applies to European users. Twitter has just over 300 million monthly active users at the last count, and around 70 million of those are in the United States, which won’t be touched by the policy enforcement for the moment.
Although, of course, the key word there is “active”. Given only inactive accounts will come available, those numbers could be entirely meaningless – but if it correlates at all with the spread of inactive users, then the pool of available usernames could be a lot smaller than anticipated if and when Twitter finally follows through on its promise.