Social media isn’t history, but it is
part of the historical record. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has just kicked off a major overhaul of the way federal departments and agencies manage and preserve their records. Following on White House directives to modernize and digitize our nation’s record-keeping capabilities, NARA has been pushing agencies to completely re-engineer their archiving capabilities, especially in regards to social media and web technologies.
NARA itself has been ordered to preserve “permanently valuable historical records through which future generations will understand and learn from our actions and decisions.” The entire Twitter archive is already part of the historical record. In addition, NARA has confirmed that tweets and social media are government records must be preserved.
NARA issued guidance on the record-keeping duty for social media in a government agency, which is remarkably similar to the guidelines for any other record type:
- Is the information unique and not available anywhere else?
- Does it contain evidence of an agency’s policies, business, mission, etc.?
- Is this tool being used in relation to the agency’s work?
- Is use of the tool authorized by the agency?
- Is there a business need for the information?
The strategies an agency uses to manage records may vary based on the platform and other possibilities may emerge as the technologies continue to evolve. Options may include:
- Saving all content with associated metadata as the complete record
- Using web crawling and software to store content or take snapshots of record content
- Using web capture tools to create local versions of sites and migrate content to other formats
- Using platform specific application programming interfaces (API) to pull record content as identified in the schedule
It would be silly for us not to note that our Cloud Preservation service satisfies all of the above recommendations. Most agencies and local governments are taking a wait-and-see approach to social media archiving, thinking that since no court has penalized a municipality or agency for a failure to preserve, there’s no impetus to archive. But the National Association of Records and Archives has taken the lead on this issue, setting an aggressive and broad agenda for social media archiving that is clearly the guide for all types of government agencies.