All tweets belong in the Library of Congress

On Tuesday, the Library of Congress ...

Posted: Dec 28, 2017 10:38 AM
Updated: Dec 28, 2017 10:38 AM

On Tuesday, the Library of Congress announced it's going to stop archiving all tweets. Instead, it will only record a selection of them.

That's a huge blow to the ability of Americans to hold politicians and companies accountable. In particular, social media has become more important to our politics than ever before, so we need more tools to hold politicians responsible for their behavior on social media -- not less.

Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump won the presidency with the help of social media. During the 2016 presidential election, for example, Trump tweeted more than any other candidate until he became "the most talked-about person on the planet," according to the social media company SocialFlow.

But one problem with social media is that, unlike with traditional media, politicians can directly tell the public whatever they want. Their statements are not vetted or fact-checked before publication. This enables them to easily make false claims. Just 16% of Donald Trump's statements researched by PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, have been rated either "true" or "mostly true."

Another problem is that politicians can disavow their untruths and other statements that later prove inconvenient. President Trump deleted 50 tweets this year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For example, after Roy Moore won the Republican Senate primary in Alabama, the President's previous tweets endorsing Luther Strange for the nomination were deleted.

The practice is widespread beyond the White House. Politicians in Pennsylvania alone deleted 132 tweets this year. Corporations also sometimes get tweeter's remorse. Last month, for instance, Volvo and Realtor.com promised to stop advertising on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News. Then they changed their minds and simply deleted their posts.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who studied 292,000 randomly selected Twitter users over a week found that they deleted 2.4 percent of their tweets.

That's why it's essential for us to have a record of everything politicians and companies have claimed. If they make false statements or try to take things back, we should have a way to know about it. Currently, the Library of Congress's archive can't account for deleted tweets. The president of Gnip, a company that worked on the archive, told the Washington Post that this is because they have to follow Twitter's terms of service. The company's privacy policy says tweets are generally public unless people delete them.

So, what we really need isn't for the Library of Congress to stop archiving all tweets. We need it to archive every single tweet, even if it's deleted. Twitter should change its terms of service to allow this.

Another reason it's important for there to be a public record of all tweets is so that when future politicians run for office, it will be possible for us to look back at everything they've ever tweeted and see where they've stood on issues. They shouldn't get to cherry pick their public utterances by strategically deleting tweets they regret before announcing their candidacies.

The Library of Congress is arguing that it's less feasible today to archive all tweets because more people are tweeting and tweets have gotten longer. In addition, "The library only receives text. It does not receive images, videos or linked content. Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting," it said.

But it's precisely because Twitter has become such a big part of our national conversation that we need the tools to monitor it. If additional funding is necessary for the Library of Congress to be able to maintain a complete record, including visual and deleted tweets, Congress should provide it.

That's what I think and I'm not afraid to tweet it. And if I later try to pretend I didn't, you should have a way to know about it.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1011197

Reported Deaths: 16524
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1359292129
Lake666181167
Allen58254802
Hamilton46498467
St. Joseph44559617
Elkhart36044510
Vanderburgh32333481
Tippecanoe28037260
Johnson25196446
Hendricks23960360
Porter22985367
Madison18820410
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Monroe15319200
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Warrick11305189
Floyd11138215
Wayne11023253
Grant10131220
Morgan9506177
Boone8965116
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Noble8064106
Marshall7981135
Cass7556123
Lawrence7479172
Shelby7216119
Jackson700990
Gibson6614115
Harrison651892
Huntington6447100
Knox6427106
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Miami595298
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Union107216
Ohio84613
Unassigned0544

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524169

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1646591696
Cuyahoga1468932459
Hamilton1056051431
Montgomery742551279
Summit620221111
Lucas56539917
Butler51696718
Stark468601064
Lorain35783585
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Lake27179448
Delaware24263164
Licking24027294
Trumbull22993561
Fairfield22438247
Greene22414326
Medina22149313
Clark19920354
Richland18643292
Portage18073252
Wood17505224
Allen16054279
Miami15627306
Muskingum14890185
Columbiana14153274
Wayne13852271
Tuscarawas12777311
Marion12016180
Scioto11497162
Pickaway11386142
Erie10951184
Ross10614203
Ashtabula9809204
Lawrence9783153
Hancock9741155
Belmont9333209
Geauga9008157
Jefferson8600199
Huron8427143
Union822259
Washington8114144
Sandusky7875151
Athens779579
Knox7766144
Darke7695158
Seneca7405145
Ashland6993130
Auglaize681799
Shelby6540115
Brown640091
Crawford6292130
Defiance6241105
Mercer617893
Fulton605196
Highland602899
Guernsey596371
Madison595678
Logan594596
Clinton585193
Preble5730125
Putnam5354110
Williams530888
Perry519863
Champaign514273
Jackson512473
Ottawa490586
Coshocton488383
Morrow460558
Pike435067
Fayette430363
Hardin420780
Gallia419367
Adams417995
Van Wert374082
Henry366972
Holmes3653125
Hocking357582
Wyandot325262
Carroll304365
Paulding280747
Meigs267251
Monroe216254
Noble201247
Morgan194333
Harrison182646
Vinton167225
Unassigned05
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