Service That Captures Tweets for Research Restores Archiving Function

Some professors complained in recent weeks after Twitter began enforcing a policy that made it more difficult for researchers to collect large volumes of messages to analyze. But just last week Twitter slightly revised its rules, and at least one site popular with researchers has restored some of its archiving functions.

Earlier this year, Twitter officials sent notices to several services that archived Tweets and exported batches of them, arguing that redistributing large numbers of Tweets violated the company’s terms of service. That led Twapper Keeper, used by many professors and graduate students to organize digitized chatter for analysis, to remove many of its main archiving functions.

Until today, when Twapper Keeper announced that it has restored the option to download customized Tweet archives as Excel files, arguing that new rules Twitter released last week appear to allow that function.

“It will give you the ability to download smaller data sets, which is very useful for conference/chat transcripts,” said John O’Brien, founder of Twapper Keeper, in a post on his blog. The site’s full download functions remain disabled, for fear they will violate even the new Twitter rules.

Meanwhile, the Library of Congress is testing a system that will give researchers access to every public Tweet ever posted.

Martha Anderson, director of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress who leads the Twitter archiving project, said in an e-mail interview this week that the library will unveil an introductory pilot of the service for researchers “in a couple of months.”

“We are planning for an introductory pilot that focuses working with researchers to get a better understanding of what we can be provided both technically and policy-wise according to our terms of agreement with the donor,” she said. “Our agreement requires that we notify users that they cannot use the data for commercial purposes or redistribute it, in whole or in substantial portions.”

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