Are Donald Trump’s tweets going to be saved in history? According to The National Archives, the answer is no. You won’t find his tweets getting a place in the National Archives, with the archive citing “the President’s tweets” as not meeting standards of archival material.
There are better ways to preserve these records – so let’s explore them together!
The National Archives has recently announced that it will not be hosting a digital archive of President Donald Trump’s tweets on Twitter. This decision has been controversial, as the website and its contents have become part of our modern political narrative.
In this article, we explore the implications of this decision and delve into why The National Archives has chosen not to treat President Trump’s tweets as permanent historical records.
National Archives Background
The National Archives is the federal institution responsible for preserving important documents and artifacts that depict U.S. history. The Archives also houses the nation’s presidential libraries, which contain records and materials related to the administrations of former presidents.
Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, Twitter has become a primary source of public communication from the White House — with many of Trump’s tweets going viral across social media platforms. Unfortunately, however, it appears that The National Archives won’t be able to host Donald Trump’s tweets on Twitter for inclusion into their collection as presidential records.
This position is based on guidelines established in a 2014 memo from David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States and head of The National Archives. In his statement, Ferriero wrote that non-governmental sites deemed unreliable, including personal websites and blogs, wouldn’t be considered evidence-based sources when collecting historical records. This means materials such as videos linking to YouTube and tweets hosted on Twitter are largely ineligible for inclusion in the nation’s archival collection – even if President Donald Trump himself sends them out.
Trump’s Use of Twitter
Donald Trump has been an avid user of social media platforms, most notably Twitter. During his time in office, he used the platform to make hundreds of posts, many of which provoked controversy nationwide and worldwide. However, Twitter as a platform is not suitable for long-term record preservation. The National Archives (NARA) recognizes this limitation, announcing earlier this year that it will not host Trump’s tweets on its servers to assure their long-term accessibility and reliability. NARA will instead seek other secure ways to preserve the historical documents and content associated with Trump’s presidency.
The decision highlights the difficulty of archiving not only Donald Trump’s tweets, but all social media content. Moreover, as a medium, it is ever changing; some accounts disappear over time or are deleted by users. All these factors have made it difficult for NARA to ensure that important documentation associated with presidential records remains safely accessible for future generations without compromising its integrity or context. Nonetheless, NARA has data preservation initiatives currently being undertaken in order to securely preserve online materials created during the Trump administration.
The National Archives won’t be able to host Donald Trump’s tweets on Twitter
Since President Donald Trump has held office, tweets posted to his Twitter account have become controversial and intensely scrutinized. For this reason, The National Archives has commented on their stance regarding viewing the tweets as historical records.
The National Archives responded to a FOIA request in June 2020 seeking all materials related to preserving presidential records, indicating that social media accounts such as those of President Trump on Twitter and Facebook are not viewed as presidential records. Accordingly, The National Archives cannot host any copies of President Trump’s tweets on Twitter. They stated “Our current collecting policy plans do not include social media due to questions about their archival value, authenticity and viability… absent changes to our current collecting policy plans we would not collect any permanent presidential records from social media sites.”
However, The National Archives may acquire copies archived by others or provide access to content preserved by others. In March 2019, for example, The National Archives acquired a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s entire archive from January 20–November 10, 2017 after another party had archived it. In addition, in February 2018 the Archive-It program preserved websites containing information taken from President Donald Trump’s Twitter account before his election in November 2016. This collection provides access and searching capabilities for over 6 million unique captured documents which feature articles where @realDonaldTrump was mentioned or quoted dating back almost 3 years before he was elected president.
Reasons for National Archives’ Stance
The National Archives has stated that they won’t be able to host and preserve tweets by former President Donald Trump. However, there are a few reasons why the National Archives believes this to be an appropriate course of action.
Firstly, the National Archives is mandated to preserve historical records and materials which have lasting societal value. For example, the message of a tweet can easily be changed or updated by its creator, potentially meaning the wrong version of an important tweet might be preserved.
Second, due to Twitter’s terms of service, users do not have full control over their posts after sharing them on the platform; Twitter may choose to take down certain posts for legal or technical reasons, making it difficult for museums and other institutions to fully record earlier messages from Trump’s account.
Thirdly, presidential records—including tweets—are subject to review and possible redactions before they become public records under Freedom of Information Act requests. Therefore, releasing unedited versions of the tweets could violate archival regulations meant to protect individuals’ privacy or national security interests.
Considering these factors, it is understandable why The National Archives believes that Donald Trump’s tweets are unsuitable historical records according to their standards and conditions.
Impact of National Archives’ Stance
The National Archives (NARA) released a statement in October 2020 declaring it won’t host President Donald Trump’s deleted tweets on the official NARA Twitter account. This has raised questions about the decision’s impact on public access to information. The NARA’s mission is “to ensure access to and dissemination of our nation’s history from past administrations.”
According to contemporary historians, this decision could have long-term implications for transparency and accountability regarding government records. For example, without access to Trump’s deleted tweets, it may be impossible for historians to get an accurate picture of events and issues that were discussed during his term. Additionally, tweets can often provide political context or motivation for certain decisions. These aspects of history need to be accurately documented in order for future researchers and students to understand what led up to current events.
In addition, older presidential records are typically stored in the archives as physical documents; digital content like Twitter posts are not preserved in this fashion. Therefore, without NARA’s preservation efforts through hosting these records on their official account or other digital avenues, there is a risk that valuable information about the President’s administration may be lost forever. Furthermore, with the recent announcement that Twitter has permanently banned Trump’s account, any tweets would otherwise only remain accessible if archived by an independent entity such as NARA.
By taking a stance against preservation of presidential social media records, NARA is raising serious concerns about how officials will document executive branch history going forward. In light of this situation, Congress may need to consider developing policies or legislation around what duties must be fulfilled by executive branch offices when it comes to digitally preserving their records — ideally allowing anybody who wants access direct means of gaining entry into these vitally important pieces of our nation’s history.
Implications for the Future
The decision made by The National Archives on not archiving Donald Trump’s tweets has important implications for the future. First, this move could set a precedent as it could be argued that executive branch officers, such as President Trump, are now not obligated to preserve their social media communication. This is alarming to researchers and historians as they fear it could decrease transparency and accountability of politicians’ behavior while in office.
What remains unclear is how other presidents after Donald Trump will feel about preserving their social media communication and accounts, especially given their impact on public opinion and national discussions. In addition, these decisions have wider implications on how politicians can use social media more generally, including the rules around libel and defamation.
For academics and historians, leaving digital records untouched can have serious consequences for any work undertaken in future related to contemporary American politics as digital communication was inherently distinctive from traditional correspondence that would be documented over time. There is genuine concern about what will happen to information contained only within social networks.
In conclusion, The National Archives has confirmed that it cannot host Donald Trump’s Twitter tweets as official presidential records. Although some people have argued that President Trump’s tweets are historical records, the National Archives has said they do not meet the established guidelines for archival material.
The Archival Research Catalogue, responsible for preserving materials from every presidential administration from 1789 to the present day, does not consider tweets an official form of communication. Unfortunately, this means these tweets will remain on Twitter rather than preserved and available for future generations to study and learn from.