Endangered large

Digital images or video with no analogue equivalent and where the only copy is online with a social media platform or cloud image hosting service.

Group: Social Media

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2018

Trend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Flickr; Vimeo; YouTube; Instagram; Periscope; DropBox; Facebook; Twitter.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation capacity in provider; lack of explicit preservation commitment or incentive from provider to preserve; lack of storage replication by provider; dependence on proprietary products or formats; poor management of data protection; inaccessibility to automated web crawlers; political or commercial interference; lack of offline equivalent; over-abundance; poorly managed intellectual property rights; lossy compression applied in upload scripts.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline backup; lossless compression; good documentation; accessible to web harvesting; clarity of intellectual property rights which enable preservation; credible preservation commitment from service provider; export pathway.

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2018 and was placed within a wider social media group in 2019 with other entries sharing common risk profiles and challenges, including dependency on global service providers whose business model can only be presumed and tied to users via asymmetrical contracts that favour the supplier. In 2019 it became a standalone entry given the distinct preservation challenges of images and videos in cloud services which need to be addressed. The 2020 Jury noted a trend towards increased risk based on cloud services with a low barrier to entry leading to use by agencies or individuals least able to respond to closure or loss.

While there has been development and wider use of pywb tools (e.g. the Webrecorder toolset) and API harvesting tools (twarc, TAGS, etc) and should say 'inaccessibility to automated web crawlers',  the 2021 Jury agreed with this continued trend towards increased risk, adding in light of recent global crises (predominantly the coronavirus pandemic, compounded by vaccine hesitancy, but also the increasing deterioration of the world's democracies) as a result of widespread misinformation, this category is now more significant and has a greater impact

Additional Jury Comments

The vast majority of content may be accessible for as long as the platform where it is hosted is popular (and has a viable business model); however, more insidious content (such as malicious misinformation or hate speech) may be deleted by content creators (potentially backed by hostile governments) to avoid prosecution or tracing. It is unclear to what extent these platform providers are compelled to provide access to servers / deleted content or private content for evidential purposes in the course of legal or criminal investigations. The lack of transparency and standardized international regulation of these platforms make their content vulnerable to exploitation and malicious use by individuals, corporations, and hostile governments.

Museums, Libraries, and Archives have begun to pay attention to this content through projects like Collecting Social Photo (CoSoPho), but no breakthroughs have been made. See: https://www.collectingsocialphoto.org/en/home

Case Studies or Examples:

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