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Jewish World Review
Dec. 8, 2011
/ 12 Kislev, 5772
If you've ever tweeted, you're in the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress, the repository of the nation's most important literature, histories and documents, has reached an agreement with Twitter to archive every public tweet ever sent.
That means Kim Kardashian's single-woman's lament following the breakup of her short-lived marriage this year -- "Can't get my boot off and I'm all by myself! Don't know what 2 do! LOL. I need someone to pull it off! Been tryin 4 20 mins!" -- will join Thomas Jefferson's library and a Gutenberg Bible in the library's hushed marble precincts.
Twitter began in March 2006, and an estimated 140 million tweets are sent every day, compressing America's likes, dislikes, hookups, lunch plans, celebrity observations and such updates as "plane arriving at gate" in bursts of 140 characters or fewer.
Twitter says it will not include tweets that the sender has declared protected as private, but careless as Americans are about their online privacy, the library likely will be getting huge volumes of titillating tweets.
The library plans to create a searchable database of the tweets, meaning early clients might well be jealous lovers and divorce lawyers.
The tons of tweets could serve as a great resource for businesses, investors and trend spotters by tracking changes in public mood and opinion and consumer tastes and inchoate public demand for new products and services, a process known as data mining.
The public reaction to news of the existence of a massive, all-inclusive Twitter drive was in itself an indication of a significant shift in the public's thinking.
n 2003, the Pentagon planned something called the Total Information Awareness program that would data-mine publicly accessible databases for indications of terrorist activity, not changing skirt lengths or tastes in vodka.
Privacy advocates went nuts over the potential for the invasion of privacy and persuaded Congress to kill the program. The Twitter archive is, in a sense, TIA returning piecemeal, to be sure in the more reassuring context of the Library of Congress rather than the Pentagon.
Bill Lefurgy, the library's digital-initiatives program manager ---talk about a title that wasn't around in Jefferson's time -- told Federal News Radio that Twitter was a "unique way of communication," one that will provide a "unique record of our time."
One hopes that Lefurgy is right, because based on the average tweet, especially the public ones, we may be accumulating the world's largest collection of trivia and drivel.
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