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There’s a story in each 140 character tweet we send out. Collect 400 million of them each day, and you have the story of a country. The Library of Congress certainly thinks so, as it sets about archiving the millions of tweets sent by Americans each day. The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States and the de facto guardian of the ‘American memory’, covering the nation’s cultural contributions for more than two centuries. In April 2010, Twitter signed a deal with the LOC giving it access to tweets dating back to the beginning of tweeting. Now they are continually archiving the data.

That’s where the challenge for the Library lies. Though it maintains archives of millions of books and even massive digital collection, keeping pace with the 200 million users and half-a-billion tweets per day is an overwhelming task.

Gayle Osterberg, director of communications at the library says,

“An element of our mission at the Library of Congress is to collect the story of America, and to acquire collections that will have research value.”

An example is the tweet sent out by President Barack Obama after his historic November 2008 election victory which read, “We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The work is being done by Gnip, a social media aggregation company which has made more than 133,000 gigabytes of storage space available. The intent is to allow researchers easy access to search and cite the data. But ironically, technology is not up to scratch yet. Presently, a search among the first four years of tweets, from 2006 to 2010, could take about 24 hours.

If you have privacy concerns, please note that deleted tweets and accounts locked as private will not be among those archived by the Library of Congress.

Source: The Telegraph

  1. Carol Wilkerson
    January 31, 2013 at 6:34 am

    My first thought was "How will they weed out the superfluous from the valuable?". And, how do you determine value. I assume it will be a compilation of words with filters of sorts. No matter what, it's an honorable endeavor.

    • Saikat Basu
      January 31, 2013 at 6:45 am

      Human communication is still evolving and just like the cave paintings of old, Twitter and other forms of social media are also part of it. If we take the example of events like the Egyptian revolution or the Jasmine revolution just before it, Twitter had a massive impact. So, the endevour could be to capture these historic events and store them for posterity.

  2. Shane Harris
    January 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I am excited about this. It will be a great source for future Fall of the American Empire books.

    • Elizabeth
      January 30, 2013 at 2:19 am


  3. Max
    January 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Yeah, this is crazy all right. Cool, but crazy.

    • Elizabeth
      January 30, 2013 at 2:20 am

      Meanwhile, in more pressing matters our government should be addressing... unemployment? Remember that? Anyone? Bueller?

  4. Scott Macmillan
    January 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I really don't see the importance.99% is drivel.

    • Dave Parrack
      January 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      It really isn't. And as you only see updates from those you follow it's entirely possible to avoid any and all drivel.

  5. Noy Sobu
    January 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Wow. With that volume I guess they're just going to delete the data after sometime. Too much space and many tweets are repetitions and even nonsense.

    • Shane Harris
      January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      You may underestimate the government's capacity for storing information about us. Check out Cypherpunks. That said, it's a waste of time, I agree.

      • Tina
        January 25, 2013 at 8:41 pm

        Agree. Besides, it's just a text! In terms of storage space, that's nothing compared to everything else they are storing about us already.

  6. Nevzat Akkaya
    January 24, 2013 at 8:25 am

    We all should make our twitter accounts private now.

  7. Jacques Knipe
    January 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Good luck to them! I really just want to know what the point is.

  8. Rubis Song
    January 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Someone will be carefull when posting his tweet now...hahahaha

  9. infmom
    January 24, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Dear God, why? If anything proves Sturgeon's Law, it's tweets.

    • Saikat Basu
      January 24, 2013 at 5:52 am

      Ha..ha...aptly put. But I guess an esteemed institution with wiser heads than us sees something of historical value there.

      • Elizabeth
        January 30, 2013 at 2:18 am

        "Wise minds"? Uh... there's a reason it's NOT called the Library of Progress. ;-)

        I feel bad for some advanced civilization that might descend to Earth a few millennia from now after we're all extinct from WW3, who finds a whole archive of musings from Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga as their only answer to whether there was ever intelligent life on this planet.

        Now what do you think their answer will be...? You can't spell Twitter without "twit," after all. Birdbrains, cuckoos, dodos...

        • Dave Parrack
          January 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

          There are hundreds of millions of people on Twitter, and only a few thousand celebrities. For every idiot there's an intelligent, educated individual.

    • Elizabeth
      January 30, 2013 at 2:15 am

      But Sturgeons are fish. I guess this means 90% of ocean species are crappie? ;-)

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