The BESOCIAL project: towards a sustainable strategy for social media archiving in Belgium

By Jessica Pranger, Scientific Assistant at KBR / Royal Library of Belgium

In August, we had the opportunity to present the new BESOCIAL research project during the IIPC RSS webinar. Many thanks to all viewers who have shared their remarks, questions and enthusiasm with us!

The aim of the BESOCIAL project is to set up a sustainable strategy for social media archiving in Belgium. Some Belgian institutions are already archiving social media content related to their holdings or interests, but it is necessary to reflect on a national strategy. Launched in summer 2020, this project will run over two years and will be divided in seven steps, called ‘Work packages’ (WP):

  • WP1: Review of existing social media archiving projects and corpora in Belgium and abroad (M1-M6). The aim of this WP is to analyse selection, access and preservation policies, existing foreign legal frameworks and existing technical solutions.
  • WP2: Preparation of a pilot for social media archiving (M4-M15) including the development of a methodology for selection and the technical and functional requirements. An analysis of the user requirements and the existing legal framework is also included.
  • WP3: Pilot for social media archiving (M7-M24) including harvesting, quality control and the development of a preservation plan.
  • WP4: Pilot for access to social media archive (M16-M21) focusing on legal considerations, the development of an access platform and evaluating the pilot.
  • WP5: Recommendations for sustainable social media archiving in Belgium on the legal, technical and operational level (M16-M24).
  • WP6: Coordination, dissemination and valorisation.
  • WP7: Helpdesk for legal enquiries throughout the project.

Figure 1 shows these seven stages and how they will unfold over the two years of the project.

Figure 1. Work Packages of the BESOCIAL project.

Review of existing projects

We are currently in the first stage of the project (Work Package 1). To this end, a survey has been sent to 18 international heritage institutions and 10 Belgian institutions to ask questions on various topics related to the management of their born-digital collections. To date, we have received 13 responses and a first analysis of these answers has been completed and submitted for publication. Another task that is currently being undertaken is to provide an overview of the tools used for social media archiving. It is now important to dig deeper and check which kind of metadata is supported by the tools. We are also working on an analysis of the digital preservation policies, strategies and plans of libraries and archives that already archive digital content, especially social media data. For the legal aspects, we are analysing the legal framework of social media archiving in other European and non-European countries.

Our team

The BESOCIAL project is coordinated by the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) and is financed by the Belgian Science Policy Office’s (Belspo) BRAIN-be programme. KBR partnered with three universities for this project: CRIDS (University of Namur) works on legal issues related to the information society, CENTAL (University of Louvain) and IDLab (Ghent University) will contribute the necessary technical skills related to information and data science, whereas GhentCDH and MICT (both from Ghent University) have significant expertise in the field of communication studies and digital humanities.

The interdisciplinarity of the team and the thorough analyses of existing policies will ensure that the social media archiving strategy for Belgium will be based on existing best practices and that all involved stakeholders (heritage institutions, users, legislators, etc.) will be taken into account.

If you want to learn more about this project, feel free to follow our hashtag #BeSocialProject on social media platforms, and visit the BESOCIAL web page.

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