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Twitter Is Not Your Historical Record

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Posted on Sep 20, 2012
La Bibliomata (CC BY 2.0)

A sieve.

A new study inspired by social media’s role in the Arab Spring has revealed that links contained in 11 percent of posts published on websites such as Twitter and Facebook were defunct within a year, leading readers to dead Web pages. That number rose to 27 percent within two years.

A majority of the articles that the defunct links had pointed to presumably still exist, but changes in Web addresses and the construction of paywalls make them inaccessible.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

MIT’s Technology Review:

Several websites have since begun the task of curating this content, which is an important record of events and how they unfolded. That led Hany SalahEldeen and Michael Nelson at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, to take a deeper look at the material to see how much the shared were [sic] still live.

What they found has serious implications. SalahEldeen and Nelson say a significant proportion of the websites that this social media points to has disappeared. And the same pattern occurs for other culturally significant events, such as the the H1N1 virus outbreak, Michael Jackson’s death and the Syrian uprising.

In other words, our history, as recorded by social media, is slowly leaking away.

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