The Internet Archive garnered major media attention over the past week, first, on our plan to create a Canadian copy, and second, on the news we received a National Security Letter (NSL) requesting personal information about a user, the second in our history.
On November 29, Rachel Maddow led her MSNBC show with a segment about how the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine helps reporters by preserving a record of what politicians say online, even when they later delete it.
One of her main examples: how soon after winning the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s official federal transition web page included a “rundown ….of all of the ‘world’s top properties that Donald Trump’s owns.”
The website has since been deleted, Maddow noted.
Maddow also called the Internet Archive, a “national treasure…an international treasure.” (We’re blushing.)
Meanwhile, Paul Sawers noted in Venture Beat:
Given that lies and fake news played a crucial part in the 2016 U.S. presidential election narrative, it is somewhat notable that the Internet Archive had launched the Political TV Ad Archive back in January to help journalists fact-check claims made during political campaigning.
In The Washington Times, Andrew Blake wrote about the Internet Archive’s plans to create a Canadian copy and also reported:
Mr. Trump’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Prior to being elected president, however, the Republican businessman suggested taking action to prevent Americans from becoming radicalized online by the Islamic State terror group’s social media recruitment efforts.
Here’s a link to Trump’s speech referenced by The Washington Times.
Sam Thielman reported in The Guardian on challenges facing libraries generally, including the Internet Archive’s decision to create a Canadian copy of data. The piece also discusses how the New York Public Library has changed its privacy policies to assure readers that it will not keep user data longer than expected.
Increasing transparency on National Security Letters
Last week the Internet Archive also revealed we received a National Security Letter (NSL), requesting we turn over personal information about a particular user, the second in our history. We worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to challenge the letter and gain the right to release it in redacted form; in the process, we also highlighted an error in the NSL about the right to appeal, which may have affected thousands of other letters.
Kim Zetter, a reporter for The Intercept, reported at length about how the Internet Archive took the unusual step of challenging the NSL–and won:
Now, Kahle and the archive are notching another victory, one that underlines the progress their original fight helped set in motion. The archive, a nonprofit online library, has disclosed that it received another NSL in August, its first since the one it received and fought in 2007. Once again it pushed back, but this time events unfolded differently: The archive was able to challenge the NSL and gag order directly in a letter to the FBI, rather than through a secretive lawsuit. In November, the bureau again backed down and, without a protracted battle, has now allowed the archive to publish the NSL in redacted form.
Dhrumil Mehta of FiveThirtyEight.com reported on the error exposed by the Internet Archive and the EFF–namely, the NSL incorrectly described the means for possible appeals of the gag order preventing an organization that has received such a letter from publicizing it. Mehta has filed a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) to find out how many letters sent out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contain this error:
This letter was particularly troublesome to privacy advocates because it contained misinformation about the rights of a letter recipient to challenge the nondisclosure requirement. The letter stated that the Internet Archive could “make an annual challenge to the nondisclosure requirement.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy organization that is legally representing the Internet Archive, pointed out in a press release that the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June of 2015 changed the law to allow letter recipients to challenge the National Security Letter at any time, not just once annually. In response to the EFF’s claim, the FBI withdrew its National Security Letter, allowed the Internet Archive to publish a redacted version of the letter containing the error and promised to correct the mistake by informing everyone else who got the same erroneous language.
It’s not just us
Tim Johnson of McClatchyDC drew all the themes together, linking the Internet Archive’s Canada announcement, the news on the NSL, and actions other library organizations are taking, all in one piece.
It turns out the nonprofit Internet Archive isn’t alone in taking action.
The American Library Association, headquartered in Chicago, embraced that move and encourages others, including telling public libraries to encrypt all communications and lock up stored data to protect it from a prying government.