The Library of Congress just announced some changes to its long-running plan to archive all of Twitter. On December 31st, 2017, it will stop archiving all tweets and instead choose certain tweets to archive on a “very selective basis,” Gizmodo reports. The decision was announced in a recently published white paper that reads “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 first announced its plans to create a single searchable archive of every public tweet more than seven years ago, but the project has stalled for a few years. In 2013, the organization published a white paper attributing the delay to budget issues and a lack of software. Twitter’s terms of agreement also prohibits “substantial proportions” of its website from being made downloadable.
By 2016, the archive still hadn’t launched. At the time, The Atlantic reported that no engineers had been assigned to the project, which was massive and messy. And as the number of tweets posted daily grew from 55 million in 2010 to 500 million in 2012, the project grew even more unwieldy, according to The Atlantic.
In this month’s white paper, the LOC attributes the decision to narrow the project’s scope to the fact that “the nature of Twitter has changed over time.” As Gizmodo points out, the LOC also had only been collecting text, which renders a large number of tweets with photo and video essentially worthless to the archive.
According to the LOC, the current archive will remain unavailable “until access issues can be resolved,” and there is no current timeline for when that will be.