Twitter (officially known as X) has reportedly deleted all of the images posted to its website between 2011-2014. Links that used Twitter’s native shortening service are also broken. It’s not immediately clear if this was an intentional act or an error, but whatever’s happening is causing concern among users who’ve been on the site for over a decade.
Tom Coates, a Twitter user who tweeted the news about Twitter’s photo deletions, first spread it on Saturday. As you can see, I have confirmed that all of my photos from 2011 to 2014 were deleted. Links no longer function. tweet below.
It appears that Twitter’s link-shortening domain—the new URL that Twitter generates so it can track user activity—is the likely culprit behind why images no longer display and links no longer work.
Twitter launched in 2006 but didn’t support native image uploads until the summer of 2011. TwitPic and other image-hosting sites were created to help Twitter. But TwitPic shut down their service in 2014. Many images that date back to those early years are gone. But now it seems images that were posted to Twitter directly from 2011 to 2014 could be in danger as well, since they’re no longer loading on the site.
Some Reddit users, who track data preservation on the Internet, believe that Twitter may have broken something to move the site over to X.com. This is the domain owned by Twitter’s owner Elon Musk. But that’s simply a logical guess at this point and hasn’t been confirmed. Another popular theory is that Twitter is attempting to save money on image hosting fees, another guess that hasn’t been confirmed by anyone officially at Twitter.
Twitter has not responded to the questions that were emailed Saturday. I’ll update this article if I hear back.
Since Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion back in October of 2022, Twitter has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Musk’s first act was to fire thousands of people at the company, a move that likely contributed to the billionaire getting loudly booed at a Dave Chappelle show in San Francisco a short time later.
Musk also made dramatic changes to moderation of the site, declaring a kind of amnesty for many people who’d been previously banned. Kanye, the musician and Nick Fuentes neo Nazi were both welcome back. They then got banned for making antisemitic statements. Some, however, including anti-Muslim antisemite Laura Loomer as well as political advisor Roger Stone were welcomed back to the website and remain a prominent presence.
Musk has also welcomed former President Donald Trump to Twitter. Trump, however, chose to stay with Truth Social, the platform that he created in 2022.
Musk is a hotbed of controversy since he purchased Twitter. He has chosen to amplify some of the most extreme elements of the website. Musk has, to name a few examples, supported Dilbert comic Scott Adams when he advocated segregation based on race and promoted Matt Walsh’s film, the anti-LGBT social media voice.
Twitter made a bizarre decision as well to restore an account which reportedly posted child sexual abuse materials. Musk himself announced that the account was reinstated, and lawmakers in Australia questioned an executive of Twitter about it recently. The executive said that some accounts may be sharing the child sex abuse images out of “outrage,” and wouldn’t necessarily be banned after multiple infractions. But it’s widely understood by experts that sharing such material re-victimizes the child and only a zero tolerance approach should be tolerated.
Musk challenged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a fight, before making excuses regarding his health. Musk claimed that he might need surgery. Musk has repeatedly threatened to just show up at Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto home, though Zuckerberg has said that any fight should be organized by professionals at an organization like UFC. Musk says that Zuckerberg has been afraid for a long time, but the facts seem to contradict this claim.
Twitter has hired Linda Yaccarino, a former NBCUniversal executive, in order to reassure advertisers worried about the safety of their brands. However, her role is much more low-profile than Musk’s. For example, Musk decided to drastically limit the number of tweets a user could read over the July 4th weekend—a move the Atlantic compared to instituting a 12-item limit at Costco. But Yaccarino didn’t even acknowledge the hampering of her own site until days later.
Musk recently announced that Twitter will be eliminating the blocking function. This is a crucial tool to stop abuse and stalking. This decision was met with a fierce backlash, and no one knows for sure if this will actually happen.
The removal of images could have simply been an accident. Those old pictures may be restored at some time. But accidental or not, it’s safe to say that Twitter isn’t becoming any more stable as time goes on. With the amount of misinformation that’s overwhelmed the site since the fires in Maui, it’s clear the site is no longer a reliable source for news. And sadly there’s currently no popular global alternative that can replace what was once an important website.