Critically Endangered small

Social media services offered free at the point of use with a subscription model based on reselling user behavior and/or advertising.

Group: Social Media

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

increased riskTrend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Endangered


Trend in 2022: 


increased riskTowards even greater risk


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, Pinterest, Yahoo Groups

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation capacity in provider; Lack of preservation commitment or incentive from provider; Lack of storage replication; proprietary products or formats; poor data protection; inaccessibility to web archiving; political or commercial interference; Lack of offline equivalent; super-abundance; poorly managed IPR; Lossy compression in upload scripts.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline backup and documentation of media assets; Migration plan; Early warning from vendors; Roadmap from vendors; Accessible to web harvest; Suitable export functionality; Licencing enables preservation; Preservation commitment from vendor; Preservation capability in vendor;

Resilient to hacking; Selection criteria;

2021 Jury Review

The 2019 added this entry as a subset of a previous 2017 entry, emphasizing the different threats faced by online services that are ‘paid-for’ versus ‘free-at-the-point-of-use’. Both depend on the business model of the vendor and the terms which they impose. There are overlaps with the 2021 entry Cloud-based Services and Communications Platforms, but this entry remains separate to highlight that for this group of social media services as digital materials, the business model and sustainability can only be guessed and contracts tend to be asymmetrical in favour of the supplier. Moreover, because these services have a low barrier to entry they may be favoured by agencies or individuals least able to respond to closure or loss. Preserving this stuff en mass is still incredibly difficult, but many of these platforms allow the downloading of their own personal content / archives. However, these lose all the context of social media and therefore, whilst they do preserve the data, they do not preserve the essence of the material. Platforms like Twitter have opened their API further in recent years, but thinks like Yahoo are being closed down and Facebook continues to be almost hostile towards archiving and preservation attempts. Over the last year, concerns have arisen with a trend towards harmful and malicious hate speech and misinformation, deliberate deletion. For these reasons, there is a 2021 trend towards greater risk but no change to the critically endangered classification.

2022 Trend

The 2022 Taskforce agreed on a trend towards even greater risk based on the continued, significant trend towards hate speech, misinformation and disinformation, and deliberate deletion in light of ongoing global conflicts that include (but are not limited to) social and economic inequalities and climate change.

Simultaneously, the recent sale of Twitter has created a moment of instability in consumer social media.  Such instability has been reported frequently in the Bitlist, but the scale of Twitter, evident acrimony between parties prior to the sale and the hostile news coverage afterwards elevates significantly the risks associated with social media in 2022.

Additional Comments

The 2022 trend also brings attention to issues surrounding platforms enabling extreme views not permitted on mainstream platforms, which have emerged and proliferated noticeably over the last year. These are not likely to have been targeted by any preservation activity, and might be well be short lived, so from a preservation standpoint it could be argued that they are potentially at very high risk, and historically significant.

Social media capture via web harvesting has become increasingly difficult. Social media platforms have done nothing to address the barriers to automated capture that prevent the preservation of even so-called public content. For example, campaign websites or other election-related content that is only published on Facebook or on Twitter because these services are ‘free.’ This content is of particular concern as it appears on no other website. Web archivists are constantly shifting strategies and approaches and trying out new (but limited) tools to best capture this content. If we cannot successfully preserve these platforms, we are missing out on documenting organizations, campaigns and elections around the globe. Much of this data exists as data sets based on aggregated use rather than individual files.

Often these are external proprietary platforms bound by intellectual property law and potentially privacy law which will impede the imminence of action. What recourse do archives or digital repositories have to deal with this and capture the materials?

It is important to note this entry also connects to three other entries: Digital Music and Ephemera Shared on Social Media’, ‘Born Digital Photographs and Video Shared via Social Media or Uploaded to Cloud Services’, and ‘Data Posted to Defunct or Little-used Social Media Platforms’. There are overlaps among them, but this entry focuses on the group of social media services as digital materials to focus on particular issues relating to business models and sustainability, whereas the others focus more on particular types of digital content.

Case Studies or Examples:

See also:

  • Recent report on a nationwide questionnaire survey conducted to obtain the responses of people to hypothetical scenarios of social media archiving by the National Diet Library in Japan, noting legal and ethical concerns as well as respondent views on the preserving of private data publicly available on social media. See: Shiozaki, R. (2022). People’s perceptions on social media archiving by the National Library of Japan. Journal of Information Science, available at:

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