The following tweet is now enough to become part of documented history in North Carolina.

On Dec. 4, the state announced a new website that provides access to more than 55,000 social media records from sites like Facebook and Twitter from selected North Carolina state agencies, including Visit North Carolina -- and more of its tweets like the one below.

Called the “Social Media Archive,” the website -- currently in beta testing -- will eventually be expanded by contracted developer Archive Social to include more than 130 of the state's social media websites.

“For the first time ever, we can capture the full context of social media as it happens, and make the records almost instantly available to the general public,” said Kelly Eubank, head of Electronic Records for the North Carolina State Archives, in a press release.

This new archive displays content in a way that mimics the original social network -- visitors can expand comments on a Facebook post, view full-sized photos and explore hashtags. The records are captured continuously throughout the day, and are archived in a legally sound format -- which means every tweet, Facebook comment and photo in the archive can potentially serve as legal evidence. “It is very important to us, from both an e-discovery and digital preservation standpoint, that ArchiveSocial can capture social media in its native format with complete metadata”, Eubank said.

Federal agencies and many state and municipal government offices are required by law to maintain such records for future auditing or records requests. Attempts to archive social media data in the past included using Word or PDF files, or taking screenshots of the needed data and printing them out, NextGov reported.

This past August, the White House issued a directive ordering those agencies maintaining electronic records to manage their records in a safe and searchable format for posterity. Agencies have until 2020 to complete the archiving process and must store all email in an electronic archive by 2016.

Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.