Twitter as a Public Record

Twitter has become a vital social networking site for people of all backgrounds to keep their "followers" updated on their every move.  Somewhat unknowingly, these people are simultaneously creating a public record for all members of the Twitter community, from newspaper reporters to so-called "twitchhikers."  By clicking on any profile where the Twitter member has not requested privacy, members are allowed to view all previous notes by that person.  While someone can delete items from their history, the remaining items provide a relatively complete archive of things they have posted using Twitter. Various Applications as a Public Record

  • Many politicians and celebrities use Twitter as part of an effort to remain in the public eye.  In addition to reviewing newspaper and press releases for statements made by these people, one can read through their Twitter update history for opinions they expressed in the past.  See this list from SourceWatch of Congress members who use Twitter.
  • According to CNN, the Twitter community has grown to include police and fire departments which use the site to quickly communicate information to the public.  More traditional means of reporting such as press releases and newspaper blotters require a turnaround time of up to 24 hours.  Since Twitter is updated instantaneously, public safety officials can immediately inform people about wanted suspects, missing children, road closures or other matters.
  • The Twitter blog announced that searching for specific information will soon become easier once developers implement a search function that will enable users to type in a word and find all "tweets" (posts) containing that word.  If you search a name, for example, you can find previous mentions of it.