“The Library of Congress announced in late December 2017 that it would cease the collection of all public tweets effective January 1, 2018 (see the white paper linked in the story for more details). Their initial decision to accept the entire archive of public tweets was seen as a positive step towards preserving this valuable data for future research and public interest. Twitter messages can be an important part of the public record, but the way in which the tool is used has shifted over the years. For example, the archive received by the Library contains only textual content and excludes photos, videos, etc. This will be an important topic to watch, as the Library continues to grapple with how to provide public access to this vast archive of social media data.” —Catherine McGoveran
In 2010, the Library of Congress announced an exciting and groundbreaking acquisition—a gift from Twitter of the entire archive of public tweet text beginning with the first tweets of 2006 through 2010, and continuing with all public tweet text going forward. The Library took this step for the same reason it collects other materials – to acquire and preserve a record of knowledge and creativity for Congress and the American people. The initiative was bold and celebrated among research communities.
In the years since, the social media landscape has changed significantly, with new platforms, an explosion in use, terms of service and functionality shifting frequently and lessons learned about privacy and other concerns.
The Library now has a secure collection of tweet text, documenting the first 12 years (2006-2017) of this dynamic communications channel—its emergence, its applications and its evolution.
Today, we announce a change in collections practice for Twitter. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Library will acquire tweets on a selective basis—similar to our collections of web sites.
The Library regularly reviews its collections practices to account for environmental shifts, diversity of collections and topics, cost effectiveness, use of collections and other factors. This change results from such a review.
More information is available in the attached white paper.
Some important details:
- The Library will continue to preserve and secure its collection of tweet text.
- The Twitter collection will remain embargoed until access issues can be resolved in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.
- The Library will work with Twitter to acquire tweets on a selective basis.