Library of Congress to archive every public tweet ever sent

Matt from the Library of Congress writes, "Have you ever sent out a 'tweet' on the popular Twitter social media service? Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress. That's right. Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter's inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That's a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions."


  1. Oh for God’s sake, why?

    Does “I’m sitting on the patio” really need to be part of the LoC?

    1. so basically they bought a terabyte HD for $80?

      Clearly, you’ve never worked for the government. I have.

      Just the ink used to print the minutes of the meetings required to formulate the public statement cost more than $80.

      Half as many drives as needed will be purchased at ten times the market cost, or ten times as many drives as needed will be purchased at twice the market cost.

      And several dozen priceless hand-written journals belonging to founding fathers of the nation and containing heretofore undiscovered history will be eaten by dermestid beetles because the intern tasked with caring for them will be reassigned to do the actual work of archiving tweets using a multi-million dollar tweet acquisition and cataloging system that requires manually clicking on every single tweet in order to get them integrated into the system.

      Eventually, some poor benighted librarian will code up a system in perl for free that will work better than the one sold to the Library of Congress by some senator’s Beltway Bandit brother-in-law. The press will not be notified.

      But in the meantime Thomas Jefferson’s notes and build diagrams for the Steorn and Orbo devices will have been consumed by insects.

      You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It’s really like that. And not just in the government- every sufficiently large and successful organization I’ve ever worked for was like that.

      “A nation of shopkeepers” is a social, financial and military juggernaut, sure, but a nation of bureaucrats is not. Guess which one the USA is.

      1. “”A nation of shopkeepers” is a social, financial and military juggernaut, sure, but a nation of bureaucrats is not. Guess which one the USA is.”

        The phrase “a nation of shopkeepers” may have been Napoleon’s riff on Adam Smith’s take on someone else’s description of 18th century England. But it is also how Margaret Thatcher used to describe the UK, her tongue dripping with sarcasm. I hardly think that the sceptered isle of the 80’s and early 90’s was viewed by anyone as “a social, financial and military juggernaut”.

  2. @macho: Looks like (assuming 280 bytes per message over five years) it’ll be 23ish TB. Which still isn’t that much data in the grand scheme of things.

    But, oh, I’d love to mine it.

  3. It’s a good thing our government doesn’t have anything of much importance going on right now.

  4. Good to know. I can’t decide whether to be more or less seditious in the future, but I will check my spelling more carefully.

    1. So this is different from archiving on Google how?

      Um… because one is a public entity, with open archives, and an obligation to preserve information for future generations indefinitely, while the other is a private, for-profit corporation with no requirement to archive data indefinitely, no government assurances that it will still be here in ten years, and no obligations but its own bottom line.

      …other than that, it’s exactly the same…

  5. Time to put out that book “Celebrity tweets” or
    “Words in a hurry, signifying nothing?” No! For $43 dollars we will make sure YOUR tweets are placed in the Library of Congress! You will recieve a certificate suitable for framing! It’s 2 soon 4 U 2 b 4 forgotten! Act now #twitstar

  6. Is it bad that my first reaction is, “Now future historians can more easily compile The Collected Internet Chatter of X Famous Writer the way they used to compile letters!”

  7. They will be saved in the Microsoft proprietary .snp snapshot format.

    But it’s OK, because there’s a free viewer for Windows.

    (I’m kidding. They will actually be saved on nitrocellulose hollerith cards.)

  8. There is guy in a weird hat he keeps pulled down over his sunglasses who works in the building next door and carries a parabolic microphone with him and a boombox everywhere he goes wearing a housecoat. The LOC is that guy now.

  9. I wonder what the taxpayer cost of this is? As noted by other posters, Twitter should send the LoC some hard drives, and an archivist can stick them on a shelf and forget about it. There is no reason for this to cost more than a few hundred dollars. It’s not as if the LoC even needs to make this archive available to the public, since Twitter is online and accessible to everyone all the time.

  10. It sounds silly to us, yes. But just think what it would be like to have an archive like this from pre-Vesuvius Italy, or the 13th century Middle East in the midst of Crusades, or even from more recent times like pre-“discovery” America or Victorian England.

    The mundanity of daily life is always meaningless to those living it. But to those trying to reconstruct it later, it’s invaluable and fascinating.

  11. So my collection of bad Toyota jokes will be forever enshrined as part of my nation’s posterity? Keen!

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