As Donald Trump careens towards the Oval Office, promising jail time for flag-burners along the way, an organisation that archives the internet for anyone to peruse aims to create a full backup in Canada in order to protect the digital library from censorship, Motherboard
The Internet Archive is a US-based nonprofit that has been archiving the web for 20 years. So far, they’ve catalogued petabytes worth of web pages and claim to continue to archive 300 million new web pages each week. Their massive database allows the organisation to run services like the Wayback Machine, which anyone can use to visit an archived version of most web pages, sometimes dating back years.
The group prefers to refer to itself as a kind of library, and as it noted in a blog post on Tuesday, “the history of libraries is one of loss,” whether through natural disaster or political regime change. With a potentially pro-censorship Trump regime looming, the Internet Archive isn’t taking any chances and is planning on opening an “Internet Archive of Canada” in the land of toques and Labatt brews. Digital information stored abroad wouldn’t be subject to US censorship laws.
All of the staff and server space needed to make this happen will cost “millions,” the group stated and is currently soliciting donations. The Internet Archive hasn’t yet responded to Motherboard’s request for comment.
“[Trump’s election] was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change,” the Archive stated in a blog post. “For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for the Web that may face greater restrictions.”
During his campaign, Trump appeared to favour a hardline stance on internet censorship when he stated that the tech industry needs to “close that internet up” to stop the spread of extremism.
“Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech,'” Trump said at the time. “These are foolish people.”
If Trump means business, this could spell trouble for the Internet Archive. For example, the anti-extremist Clarion Project has posted issues of ISIS’s propaganda magazine Dabiq, which have been archived by the Internet Archive. If there were ever a law that says these magazines must be inaccessible to US citizens, the Clarion Project might take them down but they would still exist in the Internet Archive as historical documents.
In terms of Trump refugees, a copy of the whole internet probably wasn’t what most Canadians were anticipating.