Why Library of Congress is archiving tweets

On April 14, the Library of Congress announced that it would be creating a digital archive of every public tweet since Twitter’s inception in 2006. Twitter had its own announcement about the deal as well.
The National Archives weighs in, using the announcement as an opportunity to explain how the Archives differs from the Library of Congress.
Nate Anderson at ars technica talked to Martha Anderson, the director of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program and got her take on the potential research value of an archive of public tweets, in the aggregate. The ars technica piece also discusses some of the challenges, such as how to deal with short URLs and links to pictures.
One key piece of information that might quell some people’s initial “this is creepy” reaction is this:

After “long discussions with Twitter over this,” Anderson and other LoC officials agreed to take on the data with a few conditions: it would not be released as a single public file or exposed through a search engine, but offered as a set only to approved researchers.

The whole deal has me thinking that universities need to start developing social media archiving plans. We will be interviewing candidates soon for our University Archivist position, and I think I’ll ask them their thoughts on archiving the Stanford University Facebook page and Twitter account.

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4 Responses to “Why Library of Congress is archiving tweets”


  1. 1 Havvy April 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Meh, I put it out there in an easy to obtain manner. I don’t care about the privacy aspect of this. I do care that tax dollars are being spent on it though. I wouldn’t pay somebody to archive twitter messages. If somebody wanted too, there would be somebody who would pay for it. If nobody does, it shows society’s true belief of the value of Twitter messages.

  2. 2 Kelly April 19, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Great idea to ask the candidate questions about social media archiving. I do believe there is a lot of data out there in tweets that would be interesting to researchers. Researchers have looked at all kinds of data for trending and sociological issues. I for one am not shocked, scared or anything else about this move by LOC.

    • 3 Chris April 19, 2010 at 8:17 am

      Kelly- me either (shocked, scared, or anything else). And I love the idea that 100 years from now, students will look at our social media archives and think “how quaint!”


  1. 1 Beautiful tweets « Feral Librarian Trackback on June 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm

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