US Library of Congress backtracks on complete Twitter archive

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In a press release, the library said Tuesday that "the nature of Twitter has changed" and cited Twitter's new 280-character limit, an increased frequency of tweeting, and the rise of non-text tweets to conclude that almost 12 years of tweets - from Twitter's inception in 2006 until the end of 2017 - is more than enough for future scholars to pore through.

"In April, 2010, the Library of Congress and Twitter signed an agreement providing the Library the public tweet text from the company's inception through the date of the agreement, an archive of tweets from 2006 through April 2010". It does not receive images, videos or linked content. Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting. "The initiative was bold and celebrated among research communities", the release said.

However, the Library of Congress said the "nature of Twitter" and the social media landscape has changed significantly and has therefore made a decision to change its collection strategy in the new year.

"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively".

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

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Twitter has changed substantially since it first partnered with the country's oldest cultural institution, however, and the Library of Congress said it no longer sees a need for archiving each and every one of the throngs of public tweets posted daily. "There is no projected timetable for providing public access at this time".

The Library of Congress will soon acquire tweets on a selective basis from 2018 having previously held all tweets that were public.

The Library says it will continue to preserve and secure its collection of tweet text, and work with Twitter to acquire tweets selectively.

The library's decision, the result of a continuing evaluation of its practices, was driven by a number of factors, from the difficulty of maintaining the collection to the waning need for a comprehensive archive, the library said.

It also wrote: "Throughout its history, the Library has seized opportunities to collect snapshots of unique moments in human history and preserve them for future generations".