Social media data archives in an API-driven world | A Acker, A Kreisberg | Archival Science

In this article, we explore the long-term preservation implications of application programming interfaces (APIs) which govern access to data extracted from social media platforms. We begin by introducing the preservation problems that arise when APIs are the primary way to extract data from platforms, and how tensions fit with existing models of archives and digital repository development. We then define a range of possible types of API users motivated to access social media data from platforms and consider how these users relate to principles of digital preservation. We discuss how platforms’ policies and terms of service govern the set of possibilities for access using these APIs and how the current access regime permits persistent problems for archivists who seek to provide access to collections of social media data. We conclude by surveying emerging models for access to social media data archives found in the USA, including community driven not-for-profit community archives, university research repositories, and early industry–academic partnerships with platforms. Given the important role these platforms occupy in capturing and reflecting our digital culture, we argue that archivists and memory workers should apply a platform perspective when confronting the rich problem space that social platforms and their APIs present for the possibilities of social media data archives, asserting their role as “developer stewards” in preserving culturally significant data from social media platforms.

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