The Library of Congress Will Curtail Its Twitter Collection in 2018

December 27, 2017

It was a landmark decision for the Library of Congress to begin collecting Twitter posts in 2010.

The very notion that the research arm of the United States Congress—which also happens to be the country’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world—had interest in the public prattle of people publishing thoughts and links in real time, at 140 characters at a time, seemed farfetched. But the deal was done. With help from Twitter itself, the institution acquired all public tweet text (including by this author and this publication, as well as by countless members of Congress and several U.S. presidents) published between 2006 and 2010 and a promise to do the same in the years to come.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter has exploded in size (the company itself went public in Nov. 2013) and so the volume of so-called tweet text flooding into the library’s digital archives was growing exponentially. Eventually it would become too much. That day has come.

The Library of Congress announced on Tuesday that it would no longer ingest all public tweet text in 2018, instead choosing to “acquire tweets on a selective basis” beginning Jan. 1. It’s the same policy the institution applies to websites, which have naturally exploded in number since they first appeared decades ago.

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