Library of Congress to End Wide-Ranging Twitter Archiving

1, the Library of Congress will change its policy from collecting every tweet to saving ones on a select and more scrutinizing basis.

The Library of Congress revealed in a blog post that its decision to be selective was due to the evolution of the social media landscape, with new platforms, an explosion in use, terms of service and functionality shifting frequently and lessons learned about privacy and other concerns. While it will continue to preserve the the archive of tweets from 2006 to 2010, it will soon only collect posts on a "very selective basis". There are an average 200 billion tweets sent each year, according to tracking site Internet Live Stats. The messages are now longer as well: The company recently doubled its limit for tweets to 280 from 140 characters. "With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies".

"The volume of tweets and related transactions has evolved and increased dramatically since the initial agreement was signed", the library explained in a white paper accompanying the accouncement. But it's also a matter of being able to actually preserve content. Tweets now embed pictures, videos, and previews of the content of any links they contain. "Given the unknown direction of social media when the [collection of tweets] was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets".

"I want every tweet to be archived".


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. The officials said several issues should be resolved before access is granted, including finding ways to "respect the intent of the producers of the content", honor Twitter's access requirements, and "manage tax payer-provided resources wisely". 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 change will go into effect beginning January 1, 2018.

Fortunately, however, there's no shortage of people who save and keep records on the tweets of high-profile and historically important people ― like those of President Donald Trump, for a particularly prominent example. They even went out of their way in preserving everyone's Tweets for future generations. These snapshots of particular moments in history often give voice to history's silent masses: "ordinary people".

"The Twitter Archive may prove to be one of this generation's most significant legacies", the library said in a document detailing the decision.

  • Sylvester Abbott