Twitter is donating its digital archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress. Twitter is a leading social networking service that enables users to send and receive tweets, which consist of web messages of up to 140 characters. Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets per day from people around the world. The Library will receive all public tweets-which number in the billions-from the 2006 inception of the service to the present.
“The Twitter digital archive has extraordinary potential for research into our contemporary way of life,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “This information provides detailed evidence about how technology based social networks form and evolve over time. The collection also documents a remarkable range of social trends. Anyone who wants to understand how an ever-broadening public is using social media to engage in an ongoing debate regarding social and cultural issues will have need of this material.”
In making the donation, Greg Pass, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, said: “We are pleased and proud to make this collection available for the benefit of the American people. I am very grateful that Dr. Billington and the Library recognize the value of this information. It is something new, but it tells an amazing story that needs to be remembered.”
A few highlights of the donated material include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, President Obama’s tweet about winning the election, and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter.
“I think Twitter will be one of the most informative resources available on modern day culture, including economic, social and political trends, as well as consumer behavior and social trends,” said Margot Gerritsen, a professor with Stanford University’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering and head of the Center of Excellence for Computational Approaches to Digital Stewardship, a partnership with the Library of Congress.
The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000.