Library of Congress Getting Picky About Which Tweets It Saves


Turns out everything you put on Twitter isn’t worth saving.

When Twitter began to grow into a significant platform for communicating and sharing ideas, the Library of Congress took notice and began archiving all public tweets. From the start, Library officials knew this would be an ambitious undertaking. But 12 years on, it’s become too much to manage.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the Library will no longer be collecting all tweets, deciding instead to select only those that capture significant moments.

“The volume of tweets and related transactions has evolved and increased dramatically since the initial agreement was signed,” according to a white paper published by the Library. The paper noted the Library only collects text from tweets, and, with the proliferation of photos and videos being shared, current collection methods are not capturing a true picture of public discourse on the platform.

“With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies,” such as those for archiving websites.

The white paper explains going forward, “the tweets collected and archived will be thematic and event-based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy.”

Representatives from the Library were not immediately available to expand on how those events will be identified and the decision process for choosing which tweets to archive.

While it’s scaling back, the Library is claiming success in this endeavor, having archived the start of a major social media movement.

“The Twitter Archive may prove to be one of this generation’s most significant legacies to future generations,” the white paper states. “Future generations will learn much about this rich period in our history, the information flows and social and political forces that help define the current generations.”

It will be some time before the public has access to that archive, however. Library officials said they need to work through access issues, including ensuring the archives and collection methods are cost-effective and sustainable.

“The Library will also engage with Twitter to resolve issues associated with managing transactions that generate deletions of tweets, and user access issues,” the paper stated.