The Library of Congress Will No Longer Collect Every One of Your Precious Tweets

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Main reading room at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Main reading room at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Credit: The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress just put some coal in our (virtual) stockings—and perhaps hoped we wouldn't notice because it's the week between Christmas and New Year's. But we noticed.

On Tuesday, the Library's Director of Communications Gayle Osterberg published a post titled "Update on the Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress" on the institution's official blog. It reads, in part,

In 2010, the Library of Congress announced an exciting and groundbreaking acquisition—a gift from Twitter of the entire archive of public tweet text beginning with the first tweets of 2006 through 2010, and continuing with all public tweet text going forward. ... The Library now has a secure collection of tweet text, documenting the first 12 years (2006-2017) of this dynamic communications channel—its emergence, its applications and its evolution.

Today, we announce a change in collections practice for Twitter. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Library will acquire tweets on a selective basis—similar to our collections of web sites.

In a separate white paper [PDF], the Library elaborates on its decision, noting, under a section labeled "The nature of Twitter has changed over time," that:

i. The volume of tweets and related transactions has evolved and increased dramatically since the initial agreement was signed.

ii. The Library only receives text. It does not receive images, videos or linked content. Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting.

iii. Twitter is expanding the size of tweets beyond what was originally described at the beginning of effort.

In its white paper, the Library adds the word "very" to the "selective basis" phrase that Osterberg used, and elaborates a bit there too:

As the twelfth year of Twitter draws to a close, the Library has decided to change its collection strategy for receipt of tweets on December 31, 2017. 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 ( 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.

As a result of this decision by the Library of Congress, I'm hereby announcing that starting on Jan. 1, 2018, I will be archiving, by hand, on paper, every tweet tweeted by my favorite tweeter, Tim Siedell, aka @badbanana, for the benefit of future generations of Americans. A selection of his recent tweets:

As for the Library of Congress, well, it took time out of its busy schedule of deciding to do a lot less Twitter-related work to tweet this:

Bah, humbug!

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