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I was writing an essay discussing the history of a particular concept in recent times. Because a lot of social interaction, even amongst academics, is on social media like Twitter nowadays, I was wondering what is the most appropriate way to cite a tweet, Youtube video, or other social media post? I wanted to cite the original tweet or post rather than referencing second-hand news articles that may report the original with some slant to allow researching readers to come to their own conclusions. I'm especially wondering because news articles reporting hot-takes are more likely to stay around, whereas the original tweets often get deleted by the original authors or moderation teams.

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If your essay will live on a rich platform, the most appropriate way of referencing a tweet or YouTube video is by embedding them into your article with a caption that includes a link to the person’s channel or Twitter profile. Let the tweet or video speak for themselves.

Otherwise, a link should suffice.

If your article will be printed, you might want to include a full link to the tweet.

I should point out the fact that tweets are somewhat ephemeral. YouTube videos live forever. It’s not the case with tweets. Unless the account is gov or org related, or at least verified, I wouldn’t consider a tweet as a reliable citation. The reason is two-fold:

  1. Everybody can delete their tweets whenever they so choose.
  2. A reliable Twitter account is at least verified by Twitter. Otherwise you have no way to verify that the person is who they claim to be.

Your citation standard should incorporate these facts when citing resources from the internet.

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