Sep 19 2013

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Topsy, a Twitter Search Engine

Posted at 6:48 pm under Law Library

Following up on David’s post from last week on Twitter and Legal Information, let’s look at a couple of different way to find information on Twitter. Why? Not only do Twitter users share information they find relevant and interesting, they also tweet about newsworthy events and things they’ve done, and hold real-time conversations So many real-time conversations. It can be a great source historical first-person information, as well as a potential source of evidence, especially in family and criminal law cases (See, e.g., People v. Harris, 945 N.Y.S.2d 505 (2012) (noting that under default account settings, a user’s tweets are public information and holding that Twitter was required to turn over defendant’s tweets as there were “reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought was relevant and material to th[e] investigation.”)

Topsy is the only search engine that searches Tweets going back to Twitter’s inception in 2006. Twitter’s search feature focuses more heavily on recent tweets and its own relevance ranking, so Topsy is the best way to find older information and prior conversations. Users can search everything, or narrow their searches to links, tweets, photos, video, and “influencers” (defined as the most influential people on a given topic). You can also follow current social trends or see what was trending at a particular time. Topsy’s advanced search allows for boolean searching, searching just a particular user’s tweets, searching for tweets about a particular user, or tweets containing links to a particular website. You can also limit your searches to various languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and Portuguese, among others.

From minor misspellings to truly embarrassing and later thought better of, and everything inbetween, Politwoops  is an archive of tweets from politicians that were shared and later deleted. Search by keyword, or sort by party, state, or position. Included metadata contains information on how the tweet was first posted, and how many minutes elapsed before deletion.

While not yet publicly available, the Library of Congress Twitter Archive is working to catalog and preserve all tweets from 2006 on. A recent white paper details the challenges of organizing 170 billion tweets.

And, of course, our new favorite Twitter feed is a search of a different kind altogether: @BULawFood, ghost-authored by your friendly Lexis reps, searches out sources of free food in the Law Tower and tweets their location. While we still suggest checking out a food truck while the weather’s nice, no doubt this one will come in handy starting around November.

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