US Library of Congress Ends Twitter Archiving Project

Library of Congress Can't Deal With All Your Tweets Anymore

The Library of Congress Is Giving Up on Collecting Every Useless Public Tweet

In April 2010, the Library and Twitter signed an agreement providing the Library the public tweets from the company's inception through the date of the agreement, an archive of tweets from 2006 through April 2010. It notes that the collection captures a period where social media has played an increasingly important role in public discourse and private lives and when Twitter rose from obscurity to be a place where significant statements are placed in the public record. It also minimized the gap between the famous and anonymous. "In 40 years, I want to take my granddaughter to the Library of Congress and show her the madness I dealt with as a journalist...make every tweet count".

The most-liked tweet of 2017 was a quotation about unity posted by former president Barack Obama in the wake of the white supremacist violence this summer in Charlottesville, Virginia. But more to the point, many tweets would seem downright nonsensical and pointless when separated from crucial audio or visual cues. The tweet attracted more than three million retweets. Then, there is the decreasing need for having a comprehensive archive. But starting on the first of January, the archiving will become selective; only tweets that are deemed newsworthy will be kept.

Thus, the library has moved that it will begin treating social media more like it would any other variety of collection. "Given the unknown direction of social media when the gift was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets", it explains. That year, 2010, about half a billion tweets were posted every two weeks. Furthermore, the tweets are now longer than they were before. Twitter has changed - more picture- and video-based communication (LOC only collects text) and the rollout of 280 character tweets are just two examples of what's evolved over the past 12 years.

Although the Library has been building and stabilizing the archive and has not yet offered researchers access, we have nevertheless received approximately 400 inquiries from researchers all over the world.

Unfortunately, the Library of Congress has only been collecting the text from tweets, so none of your amusing GIFs, image-based memes or videos will have been preserved through the archive. In the meantime, the LOC still hasn't decided how best to provide the public with access to all the tweets it now has. The Twitter collection will remain embargoed until access issues can be resolved in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. The institution is also working with Twitter on how to handle public tweets that were later deleted.

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