Editor’s note: this article is the third part of The Fix’s series on advanced search for journalists. Make sure you’re subscribed to our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss the next instalments. You can find previous articles here.

Everyone knows that Elon Musk bought Twitter. 

And at least thousands of people know he wants to fix Twitter search, too, as you can see from this Tweet.

But is it true that search is so bad on Twitter? Is it true that it needs to be fixed? 

But is it true that search is so bad on Twitter? Is it true that it needs to be fixed? 

For example, while I started writing this article, I just had to remember that Musk wrote about “search” in one of his Tweets to find it immediately. 

It’s easy, and Twitter is powerful as an internal advanced search tool. 

You just have to follow this link (or open the advanced search from the top wheel of the desktop version). 

The Advanced Search menu prompts, and you can search as I did in this simple example. 

As you can see, Twitter creates a search string similar to Google’s.

search (from:elonmusk)

means that you are asking Twitter to search in its repository for a Tweet sent by this handle: @elonmusk and containing the word “search”.

It’s the first result in the “Top” section of Twitter’s peculiar search engine results page (SERP).

Let’s see how many options you have in the advanced box.

The first part is pretty traditional if you have followed our series about advanced search (Part I and Part II). 

You can search by specific words or by exact phrases. You can use an “OR” operator. You can exclude specific words. You can filter your searches by languages, too: this is the same we have seen with Google’s advanced search.

Then, you can search by hashtags, of course: one of the lessons we should learn is that each platform has a specific internal search engine, and you have to know them in detail to be able to use them. 

The Accounts part is peculiar to Twitter. You can search specific tweets sent by an account (as I did with Twitter’s CEO handle). You can search replies sent to that account or tweets mentioning it.

Digging into replies and mentions is very useful, for example, when someone removes a tweet. 

Elon Musk is a perfect example for this guide: recently, he did this, speaking of clicks driven by Twitter. He published, he was wrong, he has been corrected, and he removed the Tweet, so you can’t find it anymore on the platform, even if you saved the URL – which I did: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1591585984747286528



Still, you can at least find replies to that Tweet. 

It’s helpful if you can remember some of the words used by repliers, or you can try guessing. In this case, I remembered that someone answered by saying: “100% wrong”.

100% wrong (to:elonmusk) 

means that you ask Twitter to show you Tweets sent in reply to @elonmusk with the words “100% wrong”. This way, you can find Tom Coates’ reply under a deleted Tweet. 

It still does not show you the removed content, but you have some chances to find it, even if it needs a little luck. 

Time-travel with the Wayback Machine

You can try to search the URL into the Wayback machine provided by Archive.org

If someone else saved the URL before its removal, you could recover it (even if not rendered), like in this example.


So, in this case, we were able to find the original Tweet, even if removed. 

This process is more straightforward if it’s about someone famous and popular because it’s more probable that someone else saved the tweet or that the same Wayback machine crawled it.

But you can never know, so just try.

Using the Wayback Machine is like time-traveling. 

And now that you know it exists, next time you need to prove that some pieces of content have been published, you can use it also by saving them.

For example, if you try with this URL by TheFix Twitter’s account: https://twitter.com/TheFixMedia/status/1585927936372224000

You will see that the page is available online, and you can save it by clicking on “Save this URL in the Wayback Machine”.

For the record, there is still a project tracking back deleted Tweets by politicians.

It’s called Politwoops, and it works in the USA. The European version seems to be offline while I’m writing. Throughout its history, Twitter killed the US tool at first – arguing a violation of its Terms and Conditions – then restored it and announced the decision with a blog post. The headline was “Holding public officials accountable with Twitter and Politwoops”.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Let’s go back to Twitter Advanced Search.

You can filter your search by Replies, including the original Tweets, and you can also filter by choosing only Tweets with external links.

You can filter by engagement level, setting minimum replies, minimum likes, and/or minimum retweets threshold.

You can filter by a range of dates.

All these different search options lead to search strings that you can combine. Moreover, there are several advanced search operators to use not included in this form.

The operator “near” allows you to look for Tweets geolocated near a place and containings words. For example, with

“Twitter” near:”San Francisco”

I found this tweet by Casey Newton as the first result.

The operator “geocode” allows you to go deeper.

Want to see the top tweets near Twitter headquarters? In this case you need to use geocode operator and to put latitude, longitude and a radius, like in this string

geocode:37.7764922,-122.4171537,0.5km

Do you want to run a – very rudimental – sentiment search using Twitter? Try to use old-fashioned emoticons like 🙂 and 🙁 in a search.

“Elon Musk” 🙂 

or

“Elon Musk” 🙁

provide you two very different (almost opposite) Twitter’s SERP. 

You can always search for “TOP” tweets, Latest, Person, Images or Videos.

Combining all these aspects and tricks, you can use Twitter to report on conversations, to dig on different people, to search for user generated content (that you need to verify!) posted on a specific date and from a specific location and so on. 

“just stop oil” near:london within:5km since:2022-11-01 until:2022-11-14

is an example of a string combining different Twitter advanced search operators

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Thinking carefully about what we have seen about advanced search on Twitter, it seems that this does not need to be fixed. Is it possible to improve it? Of course, it is, but nowadays, Twitter is still one of the most accessible platforms for your search purposes.