Twitter is an ephemeral space. Although there are plenty of cases of users digging up other people’s embarrassing or concerning tweets, politicians, companies, or government organizations often delete a misguided response or announcement on the social network. The Russian Ministry of Defense previously tweeted, and quickly wiped, video game footage claiming it was evidence that the US was helping ISIS terrorists. Archiving some of these tweets may be important, not just for individuals, but so other users can more readily access a copy as well.
Continuing with our series of tools that can streamline internet archiving, I made a basic Twitter bot that, when requested, will grab a particular tweet and send it to multiple online archiving services at once, without a user having to do the work themselves.
Called @archive_tweet, the bot uses some of our previously published code that pushes a URL to the Wayback Machine and archive.is, two of the more popular archiving services.
To request a tweet be archived, just reply to the target tweet, and tag @archive_tweet. The bot will then sort out getting that link over to the Wayback Machine and archive.is, and will reply with links to the mirrored copies.
If you want to make sure that you see the response, it might be worth following the @archive_tweet account itself; Twitter may end up hiding the bot’s tweets if it seems like it is spamming users. The code itself hasn’t been heavily tested yet—it works, but there may be some bugs too.
Of course, you may not want the author of the tweet, or perhaps other people, to know you just grabbed a copy of those dodgy 280 characters. Maybe you’re looking into a company and don’t want them to know about your investigation yet, or would just prefer to have a locally stored backup of the tweet. If that’s the case, maybe @archive_tweet isn’t the best option.
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But public archiving services, including archive_tweet, aren’t necessarily so much about benefiting the individual who makes the request. Instead it’s other people who won’t have to go dig up that old tweet archive, copy of a website from years ago, or perhaps pay for that court document that someone has already mirrored.
Here’s a tip: let’s say someone archived tweets from, @realDonaldTrump, but you don’t know the specific URL of the tweet you’re looking for. You can just use a so-called wildcard search on the Wayback Machine. To do that, search the URL of his Twitter profile, with an asterix at the end: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump*. This will return all available archives from that account.
The code for the bot itself is on Motherboard’s Github page.