US Library of Congress to stop archiving all tweets

Lydia Fleming
December 29, 2017

As of January 1, the library will only acquire tweets "on a very selective basis".

A statement said the library from 2018 "will continue to acquire tweets but will do so on a very selective basis" adding that the collection will likely be "thematic and event- based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy".

In the years since, the social media landscape has changed significantly, with new platforms, an explosion in use, terms of service and functionality shifting frequently and lessons learned about privacy and other concerns.

"As the twelfth year of Twitter draws to a close, the Library has chose to change its collection strategy for receipt of tweets on December 31, 2017", the institution announced Tuesday. There are an average 200 billion tweets sent each year, according to tracking site Internet Live Stats.

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Despite the change, the Library would keep its existing archive of the 12 years since Twitter first went online.

"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively", the white paper reads. It does not receive images, videos or linked content. Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting. It also hasn't helped that Twitter has doubled the size of a single tweet to 280 characters. Given the unknown direction of social media when the gift was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets.

"With social media now established, the library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies", it said in the document.

So what tweets will be archived going forward?

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Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane have all made the same switch in recent years. An official announcement from both clubs has been made with the deal to be concluded on January 1.

The library is still working on making the archive public; it's offered no time table on when it'll be available, but hundreds of researchers have requested access to the collection.

"Three priorities have guided the Library's work to provide access to the Twitter collection: respect the intent of the producers of the content; honor donor (Twitter) access requirements; and manage taxpayer-provided resources wisely", it explained. In the meantime, the LOC still hasn't decided how best to provide the public with access to all the tweets it now has. For instance, President Trump's tweets are nearly certainly still going to be saved for future generations.

Let's assume that includes tweets from elected officials, like President Donald Trump, though we've asked for clarification and will update if we hear back. The snapshot of social media history "may prove to be one of this generation's most significant legacies to future generations", they said. Which sounds more like Twitter's Moments feature.

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Other reports by Info About Network

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