Twitter has seen some radical restructuring since Elon Musk’s acquisition over a month ago. Now is a good time as ever, that we talked about what options you have in archiving or preserving your Twitter content.
This new era of Twitter has been quite turbulent, to say the least. More than half of the workforce has been fired or has quit, and site functionality is becoming unstable, as reported by the Seattle Times. Mastodon has emerged as a serious Twitter alternative. In fact, some of those who have departed Twitter now have their own Mastodon instance over at macaw.social. Personally, I am excited about the rise of mastodon as an alternative as I have been posting Data Horde updates over at @email@example.com for about two years now.
So, why not leave Twitter behind and move on? Now, Twitter allows you to request a copy of your personal data: Tweets and all. But it’s probably hard to leave a site that you have been on for over a decade. Especially, when requesting your personal archive is not even working correctly. Many people have reported that archive requests are being ignored or processed with delay. On a test account, we at Data Horde found that it took over 3 days to receive a personal archive.
In 2022 this is a big deal, not only for archivists but also for legality. Article 13 of the GDPR mandates a responsibility to provide a copy of collected data to users (i.e. data subjects) upon request. Outside of Europe, California’s CCPA has a similar clause protecting the right to know.
There are repercussion for not respecting these rules. Recently another messaging app, Discord, was fined 800 000 Euros for failing to respect data retention periods and security of personal data by French Regulator CNIL. That was actually a reduced fine, given Discord’s conciliatory attitude. If Twitter does not up their game, they may meet a similar fate, if not a worser one.
Now that I have your attention, I would like to direct it to the help page on how to request a personal archive from Twitter: https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/how-to-download-your-twitter-archive . Even if a bit unstable, this is what you need to follow to save a copy of your Tweets.
The Twitter archive is big and burly but not perfect. Johan van der Knijff recently wrote a blogpost on some shortcomings, such as the
t.co URL-shortener and some workarounds: https://www.bitsgalore.org/2022/11/20/how-to-preserve-your-personal-twitter-archive
Oh, and by the way. It gets worse: Elon Musk has also stated interest in purging inactive accounts and their Tweet history.
This might not seem like a big deal, except to the one or two of our readers who periodically scrape politician accounts off of https://ballotpedia.org. Yet it is actually a serious turning point. Currently, Twitter does not purge inactive accounts, except in the event of death or incapacitation and by special request.
In 2019 there was an attempted Twitter policy change to expire accounts which had not been logged into for 6 months. This sparked outrage across the platform by those who saw this as unfair to the memory of inactive accounts. In particular, fans of deceased K-Pop artist Kim Jong-hyun, otherwise known as Jonghyun (김종현/종현) came to the defence of his legacy overturning the attempt altogether. Turning back on this decision would go against all of that heritage, people’s heritage, Twitter’s heritage, web heritage. Alas this the projected course of things, even if we cannot prevent it, it is perhaps our duty to protest why it is wrong.
What about the extreme scenario of a total collapse of Twitter? What does that mean for web history? Well, the good new is that people have been thinking on this for much longer than before this year.
Already in 2010 the Library of Congress announced that they would be copying the entire internal archive of Twitter, starting from March 2006.
There are also many smaller grabs on the Internet Archive and archive.today, some of which you have seen linked above. Special mention goes to Archive Team‘s periodical Twitter Stream archive.
Last but not least, you can help! The Internet Archive is collecting Tweet dumps from people as we speak: https://archive.org/services/wayback-gsheets/archive-your-tweets Whether you just want extra insurance for your back-up, or to contribute to the wealth of the web you can help by using the above tool to upload your Tweets to the Internet Archive for generations to come.
As an addendum, the library of congress stopped archiving Tweets in 2017: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/26/573609499/library-of-congress-will-no-longer-archive-every-tweet
It should also be noted that they exclude media: images, videos, or linked content.