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US Library of Congress to stop collecting each and every tweet

28 December 2017

Evolving and expanding social media has spurred the Library of Congress to limit its archiving of tweets.

The Library of Congress will continue to archive certain tweets after January 1, but will focus on posts that are "thematic and event-based", including tweets concerning political elections, public policy matters or other issues of nation interest, it said in a statement.

For instance, as laid out in the Library of Congress' white paper explaining the decision, collecting all the tweets has become a more demanding task, thanks to expanded tweet sizes, and has become less worthwhile, because only the text is being collected.

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.

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Twitter gave the Library of Congress an archive in 2010 containing every public tweet since its launch four years earlier, as well as access to subsequent tweets posted publicly by the platform's millions of monthly users.

The library is now only interested in tweets with "event-based" merit or tweets related to "themes of ongoing national interest".

Even the Library of Congress can't keep up with Twitter anymore. With help from Twitter itself, the institution acquired all public tweet text (including by countless members of Congress and several U.S. presidents) published between 2006 and 2010 and a promise to do the same in the years to come.

Unfortunately, the Library of Congress has only been collecting the text from tweets, so none of your amusing GIFs, image-based memes or videos will have been preserved through the archive.

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"The initiative was bold and celebrated among research communities", the blog post says.

The Library's halt on collection of all tweets puts Twitter more in line with the way that other digital collections are archived, including websites.

The first tweets on Twitter.com were published in 2006. "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 generation".

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US Library of Congress to stop collecting each and every tweet