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


Officials cited several reasons for the decision: the volume of the tweet database is much bigger than it was a few years ago and the library lacks the capacity to deal with images and items other than text. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Library will acquire tweets on a selective basis-similar to our collections of web sites. The platform hosted about 500 million daily tweets in 2013, at which point the Library of Congress had already amassed an archive of roughly 170 billion tweets and counting. But this practice will soon come to an end, as the Library of Congress announced Tuesday that it would end its blanket collection of tweets at the beginning of the new year, The Hill reports.

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. So when the Library had the opportunity to acquire an archive from the popular social media service Twitter, we decided this was a collection that should be here. The explanations given by the Library of Congress, however, are much more straightforward and general than that.

"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively", the white paper reads.

"In April, 2010, the Library of Congress and Twitter signed an agreement providing the Library the public tweet text from the company's inception through the date of the agreement, an archive of tweets from 2006 through April 2010".

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".

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Since then, it continued to collect every single public tweet posted on the platform. "Given the unknown direction of social media when the [collection of tweets] was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets". It's a little unclear, but the library says it will collect tweets that are "thematic and event-based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy". In the meantime, the LOC still hasn't decided how best to provide the public with access to all the tweets it now has.

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 Library will focus its efforts on preserving the Twitter collection for future generations".

"The Twitter Archive may prove to be one of this generation's most significant legacies to future generations".