The Entire Internet Is Being Archived In Canada For Safekeeping – Forbes
Citing concern over president-elect Donald Trump’s statements and stances on freedom of speech, the creator of one of the web’s biggest sites plans to protect his team’s work–in this case, the entire and unadulterated history of the internet–by stashing a copy with our neighbors to the north.
Two decades after founding the comprehensive Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library that lets browsers (privately) view snapshots of anything that’s ever been online, Brewster Kahle wants to protect this massive store of historical documents from the winds of political change however they might blow. In a recent blog post, the internet pioneer, entrepreneur, and activist announced his plans to create a back-up archive in Canada to ensure continued, unfettered access to the platform’s billions of free site histories, books, videos, and other materials–something Kahle believes is directly threatened by the U.S.’ incoming administration.
“The history of libraries is one of loss,” he wrote, noting that digital libraries in particular can see serious damage as a result of “legal regimes [and] institutional failure.” In response to promises by the incoming Trump administration to affect “radical change,” Kahle says, his team has taken on the additional task of building (and raising millions of dollars for) a backup of everything humanity has achieved online, for better or for worse, and much more. He continued,
Throughout history, libraries have fought against terrible violations of privacy—where people have been rounded up simply for what they read, [and] we are fighting to protect our readers’ privacy in the digital world … 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, [and] looks like it will increase.
As Motherboard points out, Kahle’s fears for the safety of the Internet Archive, and for its presently nonpartisan record of events, may well be warranted. During Trump’s campaign, the site notes, the now-president elect “appeared to favor a hardline stance on internet censorship” in stating, for example, that combating extremism should involve “[closing] that internet up” and potentially limiting access to certain content–almost all of which has been archived by the nonprofit over time, including controversial posts that’ve since been taken down. Anticipating push-back to this stance, perhaps, Trump further commented that those who would protest such censorship in the name of freedom of speech are “foolish people,” Motherboard reports.
Nevertheless, the group’s dedication to fostering insight through information stands to benefit politicians as much as it does private citizens. In addition to providing the world with free, private access to whole petabytes of documents, Kahle says, the Internet Archive’s snapshot-gathering Wayback Machine supplies our democracy (and any to follow) with a fundamentally crucial element: historical hindsight.
“[It’s] saving 300 million Web pages each week, so no one will ever be able to change the past just because there is no digital record of it,” he explained. “The Web needs a memory, the ability to look back.”
Depending how the next several years shake out for internet policy, however, a look back at American politics–and at the swirling mass of history and culture that surrounds it–may require a digital trip to Canada.