December 1, 2016

Terrifying president-elect sends canny archivists scrambling to Canada


indexAs sweet radicalsFrench snobs, film-lovers, and spies have long known, archivists rule. They’re front-line warriors against entropy, tireless crusaders for the integrity of primary materials, and, more often than not, scintillating experts on the particular subjects of the collections they oversee. Archivists are there when we need ’em.

And we need ’em now. Following the body politics’s recent contamination by D. Trumpum Naziphilium, the past has already begun changing at a record clip.

So it’s probably cause for some concern that Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, has recently published an announcement detailing plans to build a complete duplicate of the entire massive collection in Canada.

The Internet Archive is a giant website that houses, among other things, tons of amazing video, history’s most delightful software, books both interesting and not, and, hardly least of all, the Wayback Machine, a massive collection of websites as they appeared at various particular moments in human history. Say you want to get a look at MobyLives as it was on July 19, 2001? They conveniently got that. as of December 30, 1996? Yup (and: ha). And here’s what was living at in October 2000. Not to mention these assholes. You get the idea.

Kahle was crystal clear about the concerns driving the effort:

On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change.

For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.

It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.

Throughout history, libraries have fought against terrible violations of privacy—where people have been rounded up simply for what they read.  At the Internet Archive, we are fighting to protect our readers’ privacy in the digital world.

Since we know you like your political insinuations like you like your paramours—fact-based—here’s an example of how the president-elect has actually spoken about his plans for the internet:

“We’re losing a lot of people [to Isis] because of the internet. And we have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them — maybe, in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech! Freedom of speech!’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We’ve got to maybe do something with the internet.”

So, yeah. You can contribute to Kahle’s efforts to fund the project here. And, just as a reminder: no portion of this is normal. That unaligned institutions like the Internet Archive should feel even remotely insecure operating out of the United States is a big and unprecedented deal. Fight this.

Lastly, as of this writing, the Space Jam website is believed to be unaffected.


Update: After first publishing this piece, we heard from an Internet Archive employee on Twitter:

Internet Archive, you guys get it.



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.