https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2017/05/12/preserving-parliament-on-social-media/

Preserving Parliament on social media

Someone taking a picture of a Parliamentary exhibition on a smartphone

We recently wrote about the Parliamentary Archives and the work they're doing to be more accessible to the public. In this post, we're talking about how they're helping to preserve Parliament on social media.

Cultural records

A lot of information only exists in digital form, and social media platforms are a prime example of this. Social media shows how human communication and behaviour has changed over time. The Archives have been preserving Parliamentary social media since 2012, focussing on official Parliamentary content published on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

We capture snapshots of Parliamentary social media sites three times a year. This means that significant events, like State Openings, general elections and Prime Minister's Questions, are captured on social media and made accessible to users of the Archive. Parliament also has a social media policy which is reviewed every two years to reflect the pace of change.

The main reason we preserve social media is to capture how Parliament engages with the public. This is an important cultural record and we aim to be at the forefront of these types of preservation efforts.

Challenges

Unfortunately there's a limit to what can be captured on social media. For example, the Archives can't preserve third party links, likes, retweets or comments from the public. This is due to restrictions in the terms and conditions when using social media.

There are also Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that need more clarity when it comes to social media preservation. These elements restrict what can be captured. This means users who access archived Parliamentary social media can’t always get a full understanding of what they’re viewing.

Opportunities

The preservation of social media is something that we’ll continue to do and develop. Our job at the Archives is to encourage and highlight its cultural importance. At the moment, we mainly do this through workshops. These have demonstrated that there’s value in archiving social media if the engagement on the platforms is also preserved.

Web archiving needs continual research and development to capture and access this type of content. We need to preserve the authenticity and provenance of online posts but more needs to be done. Which is why we’ll be inviting leading academics to help form our future social media preservation approach. We'll blog about that soon.

For more information, the Digital Preservation Coalition is a good start. You can view the Parliamentary social media archives at Parliament’s online archive.

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