What’s the big deal? Clark says preserving Black Twitter will allow for a more accurate and complex retelling of the history of the internet. But it’s not a simple task.
- Clark says it’s impossible to collect — or even distill — the whole of Black Twitter. So instead there will be a collection of what are called “small histories.”
- They are “parts and pieces of what has happened in this place and time, but they are not the end-all-be-all of Black Twitter,” Clark told NPR, adding that it’s a delicate balance.
- NPR’s Dara Kerr and Bobby Allyn report that since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, the company’s staff has been whittled down to about 10% of what it was before, following mass layoffs and others quitting. “Outages have become far more common [and] overall system bugginess has also become the norm for many users,” they report.
What is Clark saying? Speaking to NPR’s Juana Summers, Clark outlined why the project was important — and feeling increasingly urgent.
On the power of preserving stories:
The power of that preservation is making sure that accurate narratives are told. There are so many instances where people might have forgotten about the truth of how something unfolded. One that sticks out in my mind is that, recently, there was coverage that made reference to Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, signing legislation to take down the Confederate flag over that state’s Capitol following the massacre of the Emanuel Nine. And I took issue with that reporting because it erased the work of Bree Newsome and her comrades in actually scaling the flagpole at the state Capitol and taking that flag down. And without the witnessing that folks were able to do on Twitter, that narrative might be lost. And I think that that is just one reflection of many stories that require us to have plenty of evidence to make sure that they are told correctly.
On whether the changing dynamics of Twitter itself add more urgency to the work she’s doing:
It does. It almost adds a sense of desperation. At this point, Twitter is now reaching out to researchers who have large-scale Twitter datasets and, in some cases, asking them to delete that data. And if that data is deleted, then it leaves those of us who study this grasping for information and grasping for records.