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- The Elephant in the Room: Artificial Intelligence Used to Process Governor Tim Kaine’s E-mails

This article first appeared in Fall 2018 issue of Broadside, the quarterly magazine of the Library of Virginia.

 


An elephant

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

For the past seven years, that’s how we’ve been tackling the task of processing the 1.5 million e-mails transferred to the Library of Virginia in 2010 as part of the electronic records of outgoing Governor Tim Kaine. When Kaine announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2011, the Library challenged itself to make the Kaine administration’s e-mail records available for research in time for the 2012 election. What did that entail? Basically, we had to figure out how to separate whatever portion of those 1.5 million e-mails shouldn’t be included in our online collection—either because they aren’t records of enduring value (think e-mails announcing doughnuts in the break room) or because they contain sensitive materials such as attorney-client privileged communications, privacy-protected information, or operational security details.

When we set our sights on 2012, we knew of no good way to get to our goal other than to roll up our sleeves and start reading the e-mails. It did not take long to realize that we had bitten off more than we could chew. Kaine was entering his second year in the Senate before we could announce even a partial victory. In January 2014, … read more »