If you have a Twitter account and are fairly active on the micro-blogging service, you’ve likely heard the news:
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.
Hip hip hooray? Well, actually, reaction has been mixed in some quarters with lots of questions: who will have access to the content? Under what circumstances? Can users opt out? What exactly are “public tweets” versus private ones? Should Twitter have asked permission of its users? Is this sort of thing covered by the ToS? How do we know the information won’t end up being used outside of LoC? Reasonable questions, all.
My initial personal reaction was of the hip hip hooray variety, but the privacy questions (as prompted by some privacy advocates and academics) did come to mind. As I wrote briefly in a small email list, “This is a very interesting development. When I signed up for Twitter a year ago, I considered the openness of it and decided to treat it as a public space, i.e. nearly anything I said might be findable by just anyone else (like my blog), and I should use it accordingly. This isn’t to say I’ve been responsible w/ every tweet …” And for me, saving and making tweets available for research is analogous to the web archiving that the Internet Archive has done for nearly 15 years now.
But there are others who feel differently. And to try to understand why … I figured I would ask people about how they feel about the deal, and about Twitter in general. Voila, a Survey Monkey questionnaire. While I was involved in social science research long ago, it was long ago. The survey isn’t meant to be have validity or yield statistically significance results. I don’t even want to think about the margin of error. But if you participate, you will be doing me a great favor in learning more about how users approve privacy in regards to social media.
For some more information about the Twitter donation of public tweets to the Library of Congress, is a small interview by Matt Raymond of LoC on C-SPAN: