Twitter users are being urged to archive their Twitter history, following speculation that the platform could collapse.
The warning from researchers follows Elon Musk’s recent takeover of Twitter. The CEO has laid off thousands of Twitter’s employees, and since then, users have been reporting glitches on the social media site and, according to The Guardian, home page log-in failures.
“If there’s something you care about on Twitter, now’s the time to become like a temporary expert in digital archiving measures,” Caroline Sinders, an artificial intelligence researcher and founder of human rights lab Convocation Research and Design told The Guardian.
“This is highlighting the ephemerality of social networks, and that even if we use them like public infrastructure at times, they are not,” Sinders added. “Musk could decide to pull the plug tomorrow, and companies can make executive decisions that affect all of us.”
The US Library of Congress started archiving tweets back in 2007, but only continued until 2017, due to the growth of the platform and now saves content “on a selective basis”. Though tweets from political and public figures may be archived, everyday Twitter users would have to archive their tweets themselves.
Easily saving content in the event of Twitter’s collapse could be difficult, according to Jason Scott, a free-range archivist at the Internet Archive who has worked to archive parts of Twitter over the last 15 years.
“This reveals a difficult problem on a cultural, engineering and cost level,” Scott told The Guardian. “Most companies do not consider their own mortality in their code or engineering design.”
Since Twitter’s founder, Jack Dorsey, sent his first tweet in 2006, billions of posts have been created on the site, an average of 6,000 tweets are sent per minute globally.
“Twitter contains multitudes of reflections of humanity in every direction,” Scott said. “And waking up to see everything’s been wrecked has placed us at a true crossroads. Is this going to be a warning that we should move away from this model?”
Scott also offered advice for those who wanted to save tweets from loved ones or their favourite celebrities. “Print out their tweets, and put them in a box,” he said. “They will last longer in every way.”
Earlier this week, Musk told remaining Twitter staff they must “work long hours at high intensity” or leave the company. According to CNN, scores of remaining employees at the social media company appeared to reject Musk’s ultimatum, choosing instead to accept three months of severance pay.