Library of Congress is about to stop archiving every public tweet

  • Brian Fung
  • The Washington Post
7:52 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 Nation & World

For the past six years, the Library of Congress has been collecting every single tweet that's been published on Twitter. Celebrity feuds, political campaigns and mundane "here's what I had for lunch" tweets have all been scrupulously archived. But now, the Library of Congress says it'll stop trying to cover the entire platform.

The LOC simply said that it isn't prepared to collect every single tweet anymore due to some of Twitter's recent changes, such as the adoption of embedded images and video, as well as support for longer tweets. Nor does it see itself as a "comprehensive" collector, it said.

» MORE: Chicken nuggets, Obama tweets were Twitter favorites in 2017

In a blog post on Tuesday, the LOC said that beginning Jan. 1, it will begin collecting a more limited set of tweets in an effort to better fulfill its traditional role as a curator of U.S. history.

"Generally, the tweets collected and archived will be thematic and event-based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy," the LOC wrote in a white paper accompanying the blog post.

The act of preserving tweets can often provide a valuable service. Not only do records of old tweets offer insight into the public mood at a particular point in time, but in some cases, they can also help hold public figures accountable. For example, third-party services such as Politwoops have successfully unearthed important tweets that elected officials have sought to delete and bury.

The Library of Congress said it won't get rid of its existing archive. People can still use the 2006-2017 Twitter archive to get a glimpse at the early years of social media and its evolution into a worldwide phenomenon. 

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