Keeping The Internet’s History Alive
Dr. Greg Brannon is running for Senate in North Carolina. Dr. Brannon has some unorthodox beliefs. Those beliefs include some unusual opinions about flouride and brain-implanted microchips. Dr. Brannon used to expound those beliefs on his website. Dr Brannon no longer wishes these beliefs to be public. Now, he has the much more reasonable belief that his other beliefs might be a hindrance in a Republican Senatorial primary. So Dr. Brannon has a problem and he would like FoundersTruth to go away – the website is down, but caches are forever. So Dr. Brannon requested that the Internet Archive (a private nonprofit) take down the cached copy of his site. The Internet Archive has, apparently, complied.
There is a serious and unresolved policy question here – as more and more keeping of “public” records devolves to private firms, what is the public interest here? It seems that keeping Internet history both stored and generally available is a matter of public concern, yet right now this isn’t done. I understand the Library of Congress does some of this, but not in a easily-searchable desktop version or anything like that. And the question is even more pressing as the internet is increasingly accessed through apps and other closed services. Twitter is mostly on the public internet, Facebook somewhat less so – but in either case, the information’s accessibility and retention is dictated entirely by private companies.
It would be nice to see Internet archival and accessibility treated as a matter for public concern and thus public funding. Surely we all need to know about Dr. Brannon and his bold ideas. However, it seems more likely that information accessibility will either go unaddressed or be a topic for heavy-handed government regulation of internet firms. It’s kind of a shame, because the costs of this are so low compared to feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or launching ill-advised military interventions abroad.