Like a phoenix, Semiphemeral will rise from the ashes

Semiphemeral helped tens of thousands of people delete tens of millions of tweets, likes, and DMs. Then Elon Musk ruined everything. But don't worry, Semiphemeral is coming back! And it will help you reclaim your data from more than just X.

Like a phoenix, Semiphemeral will rise from the ashes
A depiction of a phoenix by Friedrich Justin Bertuch (1806), but this one is wearing a mask

From 2019 to 2023, Semiphemeral was a simple app that helped tens of thousands of people delete tens of millions of tweets, likes, and private direct messages from Twitter (except for the tweets they wanted to keep). Then, a reactionary billionaire came along and killed the Twitter API, and so Semiphemeral was forced to shut down.

I'm excited to announce that I'm bringing Semiphemeral back in a clever way that Big Tech can't stop, even when they enshittify! And it will allow you to automatically archive and delete your data from more than just Twitter, too.

It's not ready yet, but it will be soon. If you're interested, subscribe to the newsletter for updates! Before I explain how this new technology will work, let's step back and look at how the internet works in 2024.

The state of the internet

The tech platforms that we all rely on are controlled by a tiny group of overwhelmingly powerful billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. Instead of using their vast wealth and influence to solve global problems like the climate crisis, they spend their resources extracting every bit of money possible from their users so they can enrich themselves and their shareholders, all while making their services worse and worse. Some, like Musk, even flirt with fascism.

Traditionally, tech platforms offered APIs so that third-party developers could integrate with them and add useful functionality. This is one of the things that made Twitter so popular to begin with.

But in 2023, Elon Musk began charging exorbitant fees for Twitter API access. Now, if someone with 30,000 tweets in their account wants to delete them all using the API, they would have to pay X several thousand dollars, when before it was free. Reddit soon followed suit, shutting down API access and killing many independent projects in the Reddit ecosystem.

Today, the platforms are also cashing in on the AI boom by making deals to sell user-generated content – that is, to sell your data without your consent and without compensating you – to AI companies like OpenAI, Anthropic, Microsoft, and Google. As 404 Media put it in one of the best headlines of the year, "Google Is Paying Reddit $60 Million for Fucksmith to Tell Its Users to Eat Glue." The AI companies, in turn, promise that their corporate clients can use their products to increase profits at the expense of their human workforce.

If you've ever posted anything to the internet, it's a safe bet that people who are already obscenely rich are getting even richer off of your posts.

When one software developer learned that Stack Overflow made a deal to sell the content that its users created to OpenAI, he tried to delete his top-rated posts from the platform. "Stack Overflow does not let you delete questions that have accepted answers and many upvotes because it would remove knowledge from the community," he wrote on Mastodon. "So instead I changed my highest-rated answers to a protest message. Within an hour mods had changed the questions back and suspended my account for 7 days."

It's time to backup your data and delete it from their platforms (except for what you want to keep). It's time to opt out of this whole corrupt system. And it's time to restore your privacy online.

Restore your privacy with Semiphemeral

The content that everyone posts to the internet isn't just enriching the robber barons. It's also a privacy nightmare. Most people have an endless trail of OSINT crumbs about them across the internet, waiting to be exploited.

For example, in response to me criticizing WikiLeaks in 2016, a troll searched my Twitter history for the word "jew", dug up this 2011 tweet about me attending a Jewish wedding, and tweeted it to me, talking about my "tribe":

A tweet I posted from October 2011: "Preparing to attend the vegan, Jewish, permaculture wedding of the century!"

Many of us go out of our way to protect our privacy. We install ad blockers to prevent the surveillance capitalists from tracking our every move online. We use encrypted messaging apps like Signal and enable disappearing messages so that we don't have permanent histories of all of our conversations on our phones.

Why should our social media posts, or for that matter our product reviews, ratings, comments, and upvotes, remain on the internet forever?

If you've had an online presence for a long time, it might be a good idea to see what you've posted in the past and delete everything that you don't want out there. This is especially true if you're an activist, a journalist, or work for a company or non-profit that some people don't like. If you run a business, you might consider providing this service to your employees as a benefit.

Semiphemeral will help you do this.

How the new Semiphemeral will work

I developed the first version of Semiphemeral in my spare time as a hobby project, and it remained that way until the ridiculous cost of the X API forced me to shut it down. Since then, I've had an idea in the back of my mind about how to bring it back. Having found myself with more time, I have formed a new company to bring this idea to life. Lockdown Systems, my company, doesn't have corporate backers or VC funders.

Here's how the new Semiphemeral will work.

Browser automation

Tech platforms are cutting off API access to their services. But the web is still an open platform powered by a protocol called HTTP, and the tech platforms all have websites that their users can log in to. As long as you can log in to X with a web browser and delete your tweets manually, a custom browser can be developed to automatically do this for you.

Instead of being a web app that relies on the X API, Semiphemeral will be a desktop app for Windows, macOS, and Linux (and perhaps eventually for iPhone and Android, too). The new Semiphemeral app is basically an extremely specialized browser. It works like this:

  • You open the Semiphemeral app
  • You choose a service you want to delete your content from
  • It will open that service in a browser and ask you to login
  • You tell it exactly what you want to delete from your account on that service
  • It will automatically scroll around and click buttons within your account to delete everything you want for you, as you watch it, all on your own device
A screenshot from an under-development build of Semiphemeral
A screenshot from an under-development build of Semiphemeral

Delete your data from the whole internet

I plan to start with X, then move on to services like Reddit and Stack Overflow, which are actively selling user data to AI companies.

Eventually, I want to expand to Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks. I also plan to move beyond social media, allowing you to delete your product reviews and ratings from Amazon, or all of your old posts in messaging platforms like Discord and Slack.

I want Semiphemeral to help you to claw back your data across the entire internet.

I won't have any access to your data

Since Semiphemeral will be running on your own computer, my company won't have any access to your account at all. You'll be able to use it to delete all of your direct messages, for example, without sharing those direct message with Lockdown Systems.

The downside to making it a native app that runs on your device rather than an online service is that it can't be quite as automatic this way. Semiphemeral will be able to automatically delete hundreds of thousands of pieces of content for you, but you'll still have to make sure the the app is open and running on your device. If you close the lid of your laptop while it's in the middle of deleting your tweets, it won't be able to finish deleting them until you open your laptop again.

While slightly inconvenient, I think it's well worth the trade-off for the privacy that it gives you. I don't want to be in the business of collecting your data or of having access to any of your online accounts.

Archive your data before deleting

Since Semiphemeral is essentially a specialized browser that's logged into your accounts, it will be able to save copies of all of your data before it deletes it, in HTML format.

Your archive will look exactly as it did on the platform's website, except you'll be the only one with a copy of it, rather than the tech platforms. After you delete your posts, you'll be able to take screenshots of them from your archive, if you ever want to.

Choose exactly what you want to delete

The old Semiphemeral gave users granular control over exactly what type of data they wanted to delete. You could automatically delete your tweets older than a month unless they had at least 20 likes or retweets, and automatically delete your direct messages older than 7 days, for example.

The screenshot shows the old Semiphemeral settings. The settings selected are: delete tweets older than 30 days unless they have at least 20 retweets or at least 20 likes, and unretweet tweets older than 30 days and unlike tweets older than 60 days
Screenshot from the old version of Semiphemeral

The new Semiphemeral will have the same sort of granular options, but the options will be designed on a service-by-service basis. For example, you may wish to delete all of your Reddit comments, but not original posts, or you may wish to just delete everything with less than 5 upvotes.

There are many services that I barely use, or don't use at all, but that I'd like to support. I'm going to need feedback from the community about exactly what sort of data you'd like to delete from each service.

Business model

While I'm hard at work developing Semiphemeral, I'm still figuring out the business model. Most likely, Semiphemeral will be a free app with some functionality available to everyone – for example, the ability to archive your data from tech platforms.

But other functionality, like automatically deleting your content, will be reserved for people who pay. There will likely be cheap plans that allow you to delete content from a specific service, or more expensive ones that unlock all of the app's features, allowing you to delete from all of the supported services. I'm also a bit enamored with the idea of offering deals like letting everyone delete as much as they want from X for free every year on June 28, Elon Musk's birthday. (As you can see, I'm new to the world of business.)

I'm also planning on selling enterprise plans so that companies can get Semiphemeral for all of their staff. I think this would especially be useful for news organizations, NGOs and non-profits, and really any company where your staff may face harassment, or if you otherwise have privacy concerns.

I don't have a release date for Semiphemeral yet, but you can subscribe to the newsletter for updates. If you'd like to show your support for this project, considering donating. This will make it easier for me to release Semiphemeral more quickly.

In the meantime, let me know what you think! (And let me know if you might be interested in an enterprise plan for employees at your company.) You can email me at