NARA looks to lead on social media archiving

In seeking a social media archiving tool, the National Archives is setting an example for agencies in advance of 2019 governmentwide electronic records goals.

Shutterstock image: social media.

The National Archives and Records Administration tweets, pins interesting historical photos on Pinterest, and is attracting a growing Instagram fan base. NARA shares social media content on several different platforms via more than  120 individual accounts, including 39 Facebook pages, 16 Wordpress blogs, two Flickr photostreams and more.

Sharing on social media is easy, but archiving and storing all those posts, pins, tweets, Instas, blogs and YouTube videos is a different story. So far, the agency says, it's been done through a tedious process of saving screen captures and other time-intensive manual efforts.

The agency is looking to put all that behind them. On Feb. 17 the federal records agency put out a solicitation seeking a social media archiving tool to store texts, tweets, Snapchat and other pieces of ephemeral, public-facing information.

While these forms of communication may seem fleeting and temporary, some will inevitably be considered temporary or permanent records. NARA likely isn't just thinking about its own recordkeeping obligations. As the point agency for recordkeeping across government, and the final resting place of most federal records, NARA has a special role in guiding agencies to find automated solutions to knotty archiving problems.

Specifically, the agency is tasked with helping agencies implement a 2012 push from the Obama administration to have all electronic records stored in their original format by the end of 2019. That includes any tweets, Facebook posts, videos and other social media that are deemed to be federal records

In its solicitation, NARA said the social media archiving tool should provide 100 percent real time capture for all posts and comments in context, including metadata such as platform type, creation timestamp, and username of creator. The system should also be flexible enough to add new platforms within one month of NARA's use of each new platform and pull in past content dating back to when NARA first used the platforms.

NARA is seeking responses from industry by March 2.

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