The US Library of Congress will no longer archive every tweet posted publicly on Twitter after 31 December. In 2010, the institution reached an "exciting and groundbreaking" agreement with Twitter to acquire the text of every public tweet posted from 2006 through April 2010 in a "bold and celebrated" initiative that was praised by researchers.
The Library said it accepted the "gift" of the archive of public tweets that stretched back to Twitter's inception in 2006 "for the same reason it collects other materials – to acquire and preserve a record of knowledge and creativity for Congress and the American people".
Since then, it continued to collect every single public tweet posted on the platform.
However, the Library of Congress said the "nature of Twitter" and the social media landscape has changed significantly and has therefore decided to change its collection strategy in the new year. While it will continue to preserve the the archive of tweets from 2006 to 2010, it will soon only collect posts on a "very selective basis".
"The volume of tweets and related transactions has evolved and increased dramatically since the initial agreement was signed," the library explained in a white paper accompanying the announcement.
It also notes that only text tweets are collected – not images, videos or linked content.
"Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting," the institution said. "The Library will also engage with Twitter to resolve issues associated with managing transactions that generate deletions of tweets, and user access issues."
It also cited Twitter's longer 280-character tweets in its decision as well.
"The Library generally does not collect comprehensively. Given the unknown direction of social media when the gift was first planned, the Library made an exception for public tweets," it explains. "With social media now established, the Library is bringing its collecting practice more in line with its collection policies."
The LOC did not offer specific details regarding the selection of the tweets for the archive moving forward. "Generally, 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 library said.
The entire Twitter archive is not allowed for public access and will remain until embargo "until access issues can be resolved in a cost-effective and sustainable manner".
"Three priorities have guided the Library's work to provide access to the Twitter collection: respect the intent of the producers of the content; honor donor (Twitter) access requirements; and manage taxpayer-provided resources wisely," it explained. "There is no projected timetable for providing public access at this time."
The new collection policy will go into effect on 31 December.
The decision comes as Twitter continues to face flak over its vague policies in its battle to curb abuse, online harassment, trolls and illegal activity on its platform. The company has also continued to receive criticism over its approach to US President Donald Trump's often controversial tweets and its decision not to take them down in the public interest.
"The Library will focus its efforts on preserving the Twitter collection for future generations. Throughout its history, the Library has seized opportunities to collect snapshots of unique moments in human history and preserve them for future generations. These snapshots of particular moments in history often give voice to history's silent masses: ordinary people."
"The Twitter Archive may prove to be one of this generation's most significant legacies to future generations. Future generations will learn much about this rich period in our history, the information flows, and social and political forces that help define the current generation."