Social media sites have steadily and exponentially grown in the past years. Although social media sites have existed even in the early years of the Internet, the exponential boom can be traced back to the later years of MySpace and the early days of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. With the demise of MySpace and other first social media sites, the then-early concepts of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many others, slowly transformed into household names.
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The Transformation of Social Media
Fast forward to today, billions are connected and have social accounts in the aforementioned social media sites. And these sites that initially aimed at connecting people have now become a “treasure trove” of information for the government, and all of its past and present contents are now “public records.”
The government might now own all of these sites’ contents, from texts, photos, videos, to other file types. These files have already exceeded their purpose of communicating to the world what you have witnessed, eaten for breakfast, the place where you had your vacation, or where you are at a certain point in time. These posts and content have now become raw information that will or have been processed by the authorities.
“Connecting People” to the Government and Private Sector
To process those social media content or files is to make them into a pullable public record, the government will now be able to use these “posts turned historical records” for various purposes. In some states, mandatory archiving of social media accounts was implemented for “standards” and monitoring purposes.
For the government and big corporations, archiving – the process of copying all the contents within a particular social media site or any accounts therein and transforming them into records that can be scrutinized and used in various legal purposes – is part of complying with the Freedom of Information Act.
Why Archive Social Media?
Despite many mentions of why there is a need to archive social media accounts, the primary intentions of the government and the private sector are widely different. For the government (from the federal down to state), archiving social media accounts is primarily used for legal purposes. Archiving prevents the permanent deletion of relevant posts that contain vital details, such as witness statements and evidence pieces, which would help in an investigation or ongoing judicial proceedings.
For the private sector, there at least two reasons to proceed with creating a social archive. The first one is to protect content that will be affected in an impending closure and subsequent deletion of a social media site. The last one is to keep a full record of everything from transactions, online negotiations, business profiles, to peer-to-peer communications within a company.
The Archive: Social Media’s Treasure Chest
Given the “treasure chest-like” value of social media archiving as well as its potential to impact socio-political landscapes, several third-party entities have popped up that provide archiving services for the government and the private sector.
These third-party entities provide solutions that effectively manage archived social media content. These companies also offer tools that actively capture live posts, which will then be automatically archived.