Thursday, December 03, 2020

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Internet Archive adds fact checks to explain web page takedowns

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Fact checking is increasingly a mainstay of the modern internet, and that now includes ‘dead’ web pages. The Internet Archive has started adding fact checks and context to Wayback Machine pages to explain just why they were removed. If a page was part of a disinformation campaign or pulled due to a policy violation, a conspicuous yellow banner will explain as much.

The checks come from a variety of well-established outlets, including FactCheck.org, Politifact, the AP and the Washington Post.

The archivists saw the fact checks as striking a balance between historical preservation and acknowledging the problems with resurfacing false info. It hoped users would “better understand what they are reading” in the archives. It’s also striving for neutrality — one banner for context explained that including a page in the Wayback Machine “should not be seen” as endorsing the content.

This move won’t please people who’ve accused internet companies of political bias, whether or not it’s justified. Even ‘dead’ pages are now subject to scrutiny, after all. It might be necessary in ghe long run, however. It’s an acknowledgment that political material on the web rarely exists in a vacuum, and that future visitors might not always know why a page vanished from the ‘live’ web.

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