US Library of Congress backtracks on complete Twitter archive

US Library of Congress backtracks on complete Twitter archive

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.

Beginning 1 January, The Library of Congress will "acquire tweets on a selective basis". Now, however, that's apparently going to change ― the Library of Congress won't be archiving all tweets anymore, leaving some people wondering and speculating about what's behind the decision.

Deciding what pieces of the internet to archive has been an ongoing project and debate for the Library of Congress. According to the white paper, the tweets that do get saved will be more "event-based" or "thematic".

"The initiative was bold and celebrated among research communities", the blog post says. In the future, the institution will narrow its focus to collecting tweets tied to major historical events such as elections or national matters of public policy.

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The archive "will remain embargoed until access issues can be resolved in a cost-effective and sustainable manner", Osterberg said. But the Library of Congress will stop archiving every tweet on December 31, 2017.

The library in 2010 began its tweet archive after receiving a "gift" from Twitter of the full database of public tweets dating from the first tweet in 2006, but has not determined when or how to make this public.

The first tweets on Twitter.com were published in 2006. "With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies". The Library of Congress has previously archived all tweets "for the same reason it collects other materials - to acquire and preserve a record of knowledge and creativity for Congress and the American people". Throughout its history, the Library has seized opportunities to collect snapshots of unique moments in human history and preserve them for future generations. The company has also continued to receive criticism over its approach to US President Donald Trump's often controversial tweets and its decision not to take them down in the public interest.

So when will future historians get to dig into the vast Twitter archive now being held by the USA government?

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