Library Of Congress Abandons Twitter Archive

John Lister's picture

The Library of Congress has abandoned a project to archive every post made on Twitter. It blames the sheer number of "tweets" now being made, along with an increasing reliance on images and videos.

The library is the world's largest and collects all manner of documents from newspapers to government forms. As a general rule it, doesn't aim to collect all possible data from a source but made an exception for Twitter in 2010.

At that point it reached an agreement with Twitter to get a copy of its complete archive of posts, then dating back to 2006. The idea was to "document the emergence of online social media for future generations." As well as maintaining a complete collection by continuing to add new posts to the archive, the library also aimed to find a better way to organize the archive, particularly to make it easier to see all the content from a specific day.

A paper from the library explaining the change of heart says it continuously reviews the documents and data it archives. It says its decided to stop archiving the data at the end of the year, giving it a complete record of the first 12 years of the site.

Text-Only Posts No Longer Enough

According to the library, this decision comes for three reasons.

The first is that the number of posts made each day has increased dramatically. (Source: Secondly, the agreement with Twitter only covered the text of posts. The library says this is making the archive less relevant as so much of the context of Twitter now comes from images, videos and links to external websites.

Finally, it cited the recent increase of the maximum number of characters in a single post from 140 to 280. The library didn't say if this was simply because it made an appropriate end point to the project, or if it had caused technical problems with its archiving set-up.

Deleted Tweets Could Re-Emerge

The library has not yet made the archive of posts publicly available. It says it needs to figure out the best way to do this in a cost-efficient manner which makes it useful to searchers - plus, it must comply with the original Twitter agreement. In particular, it needs to decide if and how it should include tweets that the user later deleted.

Some future tweets will be archived but only on a "very selective basis." These will be "thematic and event-based, including events such as elections, or themes of ongoing national interest, e.g. public policy." (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is the Library of Congress right to abandon the project now? Do partial or complete archives of Twitter provide a genuinely useful social history of the US? Should the archive include deleted tweets when it goes public?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Twitter has been around since 2006 and I've spent a grand total of less than 5 minutes on the site consuming nonsensical and incomplete thoughts, followed by micro-condensed URLs that might lead me to a malware site. I just don't understand the point in Twitter. It might be a great way to share a story (if you can squeeze a synopsis into 140 characters or less, plus the URL) - providing that people actually care about what you have to say and are fully engaged and following your every micro-thought. All that explaining took way more than I could fit in a Tweet, plus I didn't have to link to a third party site to fully explain what it is I'm trying to say - which may or may not be accurate because my Tweet could have been misleading for the purpose of advertising and monetization, and heck - even swaying a presidential election. Imagine that!

davolente_10330's picture

I have no time at all for so-called "social media". I have to say that a lot of the folk who air their dirty linen in public on these sites strike me as having somewhat limited intelligence and a very blinkered outlook on life. Good grief......could almost be describing the current president of the good ol' U.S. of A! Mr. Trump will doubtless be less than pleased that his grammatically incorrect words of wisdom will no longer be archived, or does he regard himself as so important that he will make an executive order to ensure Twitter makes an exception? Nothing would surprise me but I mustn't give him ideas! Looking at all this from across the pond, it does seem that there are more important things going on in this world than Trump's Mexican wall or folk taking pictures of their food in restaurants (I have experienced this insanity first-hand!) and posting for all the world to see - as if anybody is REALLY interested!

VJ's picture

Dennis & Twits .... Ditto and ditto!!!! Big Time!

qtselect_10324's picture

I stay off social media 100%--give me regular e-mails!