Getting acquainted with social networks and apps: capturing and archiving social media content

Date22 February 2020
Publication Date22 February 2020
AuthorKatie Elson Anderson
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Library & information services
Getting acquainted with social networks and apps:
capturing and archiving social media content
Katie Elson Anderson
When social media apps first began to
appear and garner attention and use, there
was concern and speculation that they may
not be important or impactful in the future.
The ephemeral nature of the content and
perceived lack of permanency of the
platforms led to questions about the actual
staying power of sites such as Facebook
and Twitter. Obviously, these two
platforms have proven themselves to be
impactful and important but there are
certainly other platforms that have come
and gone in the everchanging landscape of
social media applications. The important
thing to remember is that while the
platforms and apps may continue to thrive
or be shuttered, created or forgotten, the
underlying nature of connection,
networking, data storage and content
sharing is unlikely to change dramatically,
just the platform, method and space may
Most users of social media applications
are able to adapt to changes and new
applications as the connection and
networking elements are usually similar;
direct messages and sharing, while
sometimes called different things, are all the
core parts of any social media site from
MySpace to Snapchat. The content,
however, is not usually transferable so
abandoning an application, the shuttering of
a site or decisions about content by the
company can often lead to a loss of the
history and archives. In the best-case
scenario, users are warned of the changes in
advance, giving them time to move or
archive their content. In the worst cases,
users wake up to find the data gone or
inaccessible. Additionally, a user may wish
to try to suppress previously public social
media content while others seek it out.
There have been several recent
examples of users being warned of
major changes to a platform, which
would result in the loss of content. The
photo sharing application, Flickr
announced in November 2017 that free
storage amounts will be cut drastically
and users can only store up to 1,000
photos and anything beyond that will be
deleted unless they pay for a pro
account (Tiffany, 2019). Flickr is photo
management and sharing application
that has been around since 2004.
Stephens (2006) writes about ways to
use Flickr in libraries, using it to
connect libraries to patrons and
librarians to librarians. It has been used
widely by libraries and librarians even
through the many changes of ownership
and depending on the use, the limit to
1,000 photos in 10 years could have an
impact on the accounts. The librarian
trading cards group (
groups/librariancards) is mentioned,
which, while not active is an example of a
part of a fun part of librarian professional
history that could eventually be lost.
The microblogging site Tumblr was
founded in 2007, and while it has never
been one of the most popular or heavily
used social media platforms its use has
been consistent with a cumulative
number of posts increasing every year
(Tumblr, 2019). Libraries and librarians
have been part of that consistent group of
users, embracing the ability to post in a
number of different formats, provide
attribution and connect with communities
(Power, 2014;Anderson, 2015). There is
evidence of marginalized and vulnerable
communities using Tumblr as a digital
safe haven, as it provides a space for those
individuals and topics that are often
attacked, demeaned and harassed in other
digital platforms (Cavalcante, 2018). In
December 2018, Tumblr announced that
it would be banning adult, not safe for
work content using automated tools and
algorithms to flag the content. This was
done primarily as an effort to combat
illegal pornography that was appearing on
the site. The use of automated tools to
make the distinction between what is and
is not acceptable under their new terms
leads many users to express concerns
about the consistency of the flagging in a
space that is used for discussions that can
be sexual in content. Those concerns are
not unfounded as immediately there were
reports of errors in the flagging of the
content, including discussions of Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning
and others issues, conversations about sex
work, romance novel covers and classical
works of art (Martineau, 2018). The effort
to remove this content is resulting in the
loss of legal and appropriate content
generatedbyalready marginalized
communities. As librarians serving the
communities using these platforms, it is
important that we be aware of the impact
of these actions, along with the tools and
methods to preserve important pieces of
digital history.
In December 2018 Google announced
the end of Googleþfor consumers and as
of April 2, 2019 all content from
consumer Googleþaccounts will be
deleted[1]. This includes not only content
with Googleþbut also comments made
on Google-owned sites such as Blogger
and YouTube. This is an interesting
example of the far-reaching effects of the
shuttering of a platform. Librarians and
libraries put time and effort into this
platform, exploring its uses, creating
communities and making connections. A
brief look at my own stream before I
archived it reminded me of all the
connections I had made and as lost when I
abandoned the platform well before its
These examples are ones where the
platforms gave users a warning and time
to make arrangements to save or move
their data. The nature of social media
platforms and their terms of service,
however, do not guarantee that users
will be notified or have any recourse
should content be removed or deleted.
Writer and artist Dennis Cooper’s blog
was removed in 2016 without warning
by Google, erasing years of creative
works for which he had no archive or
18 LIBRARY HITECH NEWS Number 2 2020, pp. 18-22, V
CEmerald Publishing Limited, 0741-9058, DOI 10.1108/LHTN-03-2019-0011

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