Yes, the Internet Archive — the “Wayback Machine” that’s home to hundreds of billions of dead or otherwise lost web pages — is heading to Canada.
And yes, President-elect Donald Trump is part of the reason.
Back in September, the President-elect said, “Cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that, a number of years ago — a short number of years ago — wasn’t even a word,” clearly demonstrating that he doesn’t quite know how the internet functions. Even before that, Trump threw out the idea of “closing the internet up.” Meanwhile, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine helped reveal the fact that his promise to ban Muslims was removed from the Trump website, only to be added back again after people noticed. The Internet Archive strives to be a reliable source for historical preservation of what goes on online, an ethical goal that doesn’t seem to be aligned with those of the Trump administration.
In a blog post, the Internet Archive’s Founder Brewster Kahle explains that it wants to create a backup in Canada where U.S. censorship laws wouldn’t apply.
Kahle writes, “On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.”
The Internet Archive has played an important role in creating an accurate record of everything that pops up on the internet. Its Wayback Machine saves 300 million pages a week and the Political TV Ad Archive served as a fact checking tool for journalists during the election season.
If Trump were to go forward with plans to limit digital freedoms, it’s possible that the Internet Archive’s documentation could be put at risk. And with all the worry about fake news spreading through Facebook as of late, the internet needs accurate historical preservation more than ever.
The Internet Archive adds that the project will cost millions of dollars, urging users to donate to the initiative.