Library of Congress to End Wide-Ranging Twitter Archiving

The Library of Congress is getting picky about saving tweets.                  Screenshot by Lori Grunin  CNET

The Library of Congress is getting picky about saving tweets. Screenshot by Lori Grunin CNET

But starting January 1, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution will change its policy from collecting every tweet to saving ones on a select and more scrutinizing basis.

The Library said it accepted the "gift" of the archive of public tweets that stretched back to Twitter's inception in 2006 "for the same reason it collects other materials - to acquire and preserve a record of knowledge and creativity for Congress and the American people".

But the news site PoliticusUSA appeared to welcome the decision, tweeting that the library "would be no longer be wasting its resources by trying to archive every single public post published on Twitter".

Twitter has gone from processing about 5,000 tweets a day in 2007, to more than 50 million tweets daily when it partnered with the Library of Congress in 2010.

In 2010, Twitter gifted the Library the "entire archive of public tweet text beginning with the first tweets of 2006 through 2010", continuing with all tweets made after that time.

Twitter has since exploded in size (the company went public in November 2013) and so the volume of so-called tweet text flooding into the library's digital archives was growing exponentially, eventually becoming too much. The initiative was bold and celebrated among research communities, " wrote Library of Congress spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg on its website.

"As the twelfth year of Twitter draws to a close, the Library has chose to change its collection strategy for receipt of tweets on December 31, 2017", the institution announced Tuesday.

"With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies", it said in the document. "After this time, the Library will continue to acquire tweets but will do so on a very selective basis under the overall guidance provided in the Library's Collections Policy Statements and associated documents", they explained.

The Library further mentioned in its white paper that it will focus its efforts on preserving the Twitter collection for future generations.

Nevertheless, the library's existing collection offers a "snapshot" of a unique moment in history, it said.

More information is available in the attached white paper.

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