Library of Congress Says It Will No Longer Archive Every Public Tweet

Phillip Cunningham
December 29, 2017

The US Library of Congress will no longer archive every tweet posted publicly on Twitter after 31 December. The social media platform shared their own archive with the Washington-based library, which covered tweets sent out between 2006 and 2010.

Starting on Jan 1, 2018, the library will apply the same selective discretion to tweets that it uses for other documents, collecting and archiving material around themes or events of effect.

The move was also driven by practical concerns, including both the difficulty in archiving the huge amount of data on Twitter and the fact that the library has only ever collected the text of tweets even as they have become increasingly visual. The archive stretches back to Twitter's beginning, in 2006.

"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively", the Library of Congress said in a statement. "With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies". The messages are now longer as well: The company recently doubled its limit for tweets to 280 from 140 characters.

In the latest statement, the Library said it chose to change its approach of storing tweets based on several reasons, including the dramatic growth of traffic on Twitter.

Hurry, you have just a few more days to ensure a spot for your tweets in the collections of the Library of Congress.

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

The Library's focus now is on addressing the significant technology challenges to making the archive accessible to researchers in a comprehensive, useful way.

"This is an entirely new addition to the historical record, the second-by-second history of ordinary people", Fred R. Shapiro, associate librarian and lecturer at the Yale Law School, told The New York Times in 2010. The explanations given by the Library of Congress, however, are much more straightforward and general than that. You really want ALL the tweets?

"Given the unknown direction of social media when the gift was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets", it explains in the white paper.

The library's initial decision to collect everything that's public was an attempt to create a "snapshot" of the early stages of "one of social media's most important and transformative communication tools".

The LOC did not offer specific details regarding the selection of the tweets for the archive moving forward. Which sounds more like Twitter's Moments feature.

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