Oops: Twitter/X “Glitch” Erased Millions of User Photos

A person holding an iphone displaying social media icons.

If you posted lots of photos to Twitter, or as it’s now called, X, prior to 2014, you might want to check if they’re still there.

The social media giant suffered a glitch that caused millions of images posted prior to the above date to disappear and be replaced by a link that goes nowhere. Something similar has also happened to many hyperlinks posted to the social platform.

The entire disaster was first brought to the public eye by “product strategy” tweeter Tom Coates and by a Brazilian YouTuber named Danilo Tagaki, but was also later picked up on by others.

Amusingly, one of the most retweeted photos ever posted to Twitter, a selfie captured by actress Ellen DeGeneres during the 2014 Oscars, is one of the images that disappeared thanks to Twitter’s latest digital disaster.

A group of people posing for a photo on twitter.

This image at least was restored again this past Sunday morning. For many other non-famous photos, a restore might not yet be the case.

In fact, aside from a small few historically and socially notable photos posted to Twitter before 2014, most seem to have disappeared and X itself has only stated that this was a glitch and that the “issue will be fully resolved in the coming days”.

This lack of a concrete response has naturally and not unreasonably caused speculation that the mass erasure of images from the site was at first a deliberate move by Twitter for the sake of saving money on storage, or some other experiment.

It’s well known that Twitter has been bleeding away advertising revenue and funds in general since being bought by Elon Musk in October of last year, so strange and abrupt cost-cutting measures wouldn’t be that implausible.

This applies especially when you consider Musk’s penchant for unexpected, seemingly irrational and often self-harming administrative decisions.

Elon musk's twitter logo is displayed on a smartphone.

In this writer’s humble opinion, even the latest oddity of renaming Twitter, with all its attendant name-based brand recognition, to something as banal as “X” numbers among these weird, absurd choices.

In any case, a Community Note attached to one of Tom Oates’s tweets about the photo deletion claimed the photos to still be on Twitter’s servers.

Furthermore, Twitter/X made a public statement on the 22nd of August saying,

“Over the weekend we had a bug that prevented us from displaying images from before 2014. No images or data were lost. We fixed the bug, and the issue will be fully resolved in the coming days.”

Before that, this past Saturday, Musk also tweeted that “The sad truth is that there are no great ‘social networks’ right now. We may fail, as so many have predicted, but we will try out best to make there be at least one.”

This rather ambiguous lament might have nothing to do with this latest Twitter disaster, or it might. The billionaire does indeed have a reputation for making oblique public hints about the things he’s planning.

According to Tom Coates,

Even if it’s a bug, the reporting is that it didn’t just happen overnight,” writes Coates. “So it’s either directly an Elon decision, the unfortunate accident of an Elon decision, or wasn’t fixed because the engineering team is overstretched/ill-equipped because of an Elon decision.”

He seems to be laying on the Elon blame a bit thickly with his claim, but again, given Musk’s previous Twitter-related decisions, it’s sort of understandable to blame him somehow.

The continued (albeit invisible) presence of these millions of pre-2014 photos in Twitter’s servers could indeed mean that, as the company says, it was just a glitch.

On the other hand, it could also mean that Twitter is lying and were instead experimenting with their deletion to see what the public reaction would be.

This would also account for the photos being placed into an invisible limbo instead of outright being deleted.

If you’d like to see if your own images from before January 2014 are still on the site, you don’t need to scroll back across 9 years of tweets to verify their status.

Instead just type “From:[your username] until:2014-01-01”  and scroll back a bit to see your old content. If any of the photos or hyperlinks are down, wait a few days to see if “X” really does restore them as it’s claiming.

As of today, many users of Twitter still can’t see their pre-2014 images on their accounts with the site, so despite the company’s claims of an impending fix, it’s worth checking your own older posts.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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