It's no secret that in a culture of constant internet connectivity, significant world events are reported in real time on just about every popular social media portal. Twitter and Facebook come alive whenever big news happens, and social networks have even played important roles in their outcome. But if you're like many who use social media on a regular basis, you probably never give a thought to whether or not all that information is being archived for the future. The short answer is no, or at least not as well as it should be.
Researchers Hany SalahEldeen and Michael Nelson of Old Dominion University looked at the social media records of major world events including Michael Jackson's death, the Egyptian political unrest, and Obama winning the Nobel Prize. They discovered that while some of the significant social media discussion regarding each topic was being archived on various websites and even hard copy, much of it was also disappearing and completely unrecoverable.
Social media sites like Twitter don't publicly archive every single tweet for future viewing, and it's impossible for automated processes to separate the wheat (valuable facts and personal accounts of events) from the chaff (posts about funny things your cat did).
The scariest part is that the data is being deleted far faster than you might imagine. After a single year of being posted, approximately 11% of this public timeline is gone, and a whopping 27% is unavailable within two years.
It's unclear at this point if there is an easy solution — or any solution, really — to keeping relevant accounts of events for future use. Our history is being written by your average Joe every second of every day, and if we care about keeping accurate accounts of events, the steady elimination of social media will need to be curbed one way or the other.
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