Sara Day Thomson – Abstract and Bio

Social Media Archiving & Preservation: Legal and Ethical Implications for Collecting Institutions

This talk provides a short overview of current practices capturing and preserving social media content. It then addresses the legal and ethical implications for collecting organisations interested in integrating this content into their collections. While archived social media provides a rich resource for a range of different organisations, capturing, preserving, and sharing this content has wide-reaching legal and ethical implications. Further, social media is a complex, multi-faceted technology that can be captured in different forms for different purposes. Museum curators, for example, might be interested in exhibiting images shared on social media. They might also be interested in how users respond to exhibits or collections on social media. Researchers might be interested in the relationship between images shared on social media and user interactions. Therefore, any institutions interested in collecting and preserving social media must consider the particular ways their collections – and the form they take –  might affect the users represented in this content and comply with platform terms and conditions. This is not to say that legal and ethical considerations should prevent organisations – and communities – from archiving culturally or socially important content from social media. This presentation will present different strategies for making ethical collecting decisions. It will also reflect on the evolving relationship between collecting institutions, their users, and the private individuals and communities who generate and own this rich form of data.

Sara Day Thomson

Digital Archivist at University of Edinburgh. Formerly Research Officer at the Digital Preservation Coalition ( She project manages the Technology Watch Report Series and coordinates the Web Archiving and Preservation Working Group. She is the author of Preserving Social Media, a DPC Technology Watch Report that articulates the challenges of capturing and preserving user-generated content on web-based platforms. Her main interests include the preservation of web and social media content, community uptake of new methods and tools, and practical case studies for implementing digital preservation.

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