The Internet Archive has announced that it will begin adding fact checks as well as context to pages in its Wayback Machine in order to explain why they were removed.
For those unfamiliar, the nonprofit’s Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the internet and the pages that make it up. Since the service’s launch in 2001, over 463bn pages have been added to the archive so that users can go back and see how popular sites used to look in the past.
The Internet Archive’s goal is to preserve our digital history though it also recognizes that providing access to false and misleading information from a wide variety of sources that have since been removed from the internet can have negative effects.
Now by providing links to contextual information, the nonprofit hopes it can help its users better understand the content they’re reading when looking at archived pages in the Wayback Machine.
Stopping the spread of disinformation
In a blog post announcing its decision to add fact checks to the Wayback Machine’s content, the Internet Archive also provided several examples of how its platform has been used to spread disinformation in the past.
For instance, it discovered that a webpage in its archive was part of a disinformation campaign based on a report from researchers from Graphika. Now when you visit that site on the Wayback Machine, you’ll see a yellow banner at the top of the page which reads: “This is an archived web page that was included in a report titled “Secondary Infektion”. Here is a link to it on the Live Web”.
Another example provided by the Internet Archive deals with a Medium post that was later removed based on a violation of Medium’s Covid-19 content policy. The archived copy of the post now includes a fact check notice at the top of the page that explains that: “In most instances, the archiving of a page is an automated process. The inclusion of a page in the Wayback Machine should not be seen as an endorsement of its content in any way.”
Understanding why a page was removed from the web can give future readers better context and the fact check banners also help distance the Internet Archive from the content found on archived pages.
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