Let Readers Read

Ask publishers to restore access to the 500,000 books they’ve caused to be removed from the Internet Archive’s lending library.

Sign the Open Letter


I’m Chris Freeland, a librarian at the Internet Archive. The lawsuit against our library—Hachette v. Internet Archive—is fast approaching the oral argument stage of its appeal on June 28. I’ve been reflecting on our ongoing, four-year experience with this litigation and on the outcome we’re hoping for. Our position is straightforward; we just want to let our library patrons borrow and read the books we own, like any other library. 

We purchase and acquire books—yes, physical, paper books—and make them available for one person at a time to check out and read online. This work is important for readers and authors alike, as many younger and low-income readers can only read if books are free to borrow, and many authors’ books will only be discovered or preserved through the work of librarians. We use industry-standard technology to prevent our books from being downloaded and redistributed—the same technology used by corporate publishers.

But the publishers suing our library say we shouldn’t be allowed to lend the books we own. They have forced us to remove more than half a million books from our library, and that’s why we are appealing.  

Impact

The legal decision and resulting injunction against our library have already had a profoundly negative impact on our patrons. They have inundated us with so many inquiries that our patron services team needed to prepare a Help Document explaining why our collection has been shrinking so rapidly. 

We asked our patrons to share their stories of what losing access to these 500,000 books has meant to them. What’s clear from the hundreds of testimonials we’ve received is the ability to access our books remains an absolute necessity for the many people around the world who depend on our library for their educational and professional development: 

  • Mark, a researcher from New York, said that as an independent scholar without an institutional affiliation, he often struggles to gain access to books he needs for his research. He says that The Internet Archive has been a lifeline for him.
  • We heard from Lucero, an educator from Mexico City, who said that without our library, he wouldn’t have been able to complete his research on Mexican Sign Langauge.
  • Perhaps Mrittika said it best. She’s from a rural region in India and doesn’t have access to rare books. She asks the publishers, “If you are going to ban online availability of these resources, what about us?”

Take Action

In appealing the district court’s decision, our goal is simply to let these readers continue on their journey. We envision a world in which Wikipedians can verify facts by following citations to information contained only in our printed history; where libraries can serve their communities online with collections financed through public investment; and above all, where library patrons are free to read without fear of corporate or government surveillance.

Sign the Open Letter

Please help spread the word across social media: Bluesky, Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, TikTok, Twitter/X

The potential repercussions of this lawsuit extend far beyond the Internet Archive. This is a fight for the preservation of all libraries, and the fundamental right to access information, a cornerstone of any democratic society. We believe in the right of authors to benefit from their work; and we believe that libraries must be permitted to fulfill their mission of providing access to knowledge, regardless of whether it takes physical or digital form. Doing so upholds the principle that knowledge should be equally and equitably accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or where they learn. 

As we head into this appeal, our message remains clear and unwavering: Let readers read.

Lend your voice to this message by signing the open letter to publishers, asking them to restore access to the books they have removed from our library.

Patrons Speak Out: The Impact of Losing Access to More Than 500,000 Books

Earlier this week, we asked readers across social media to tell us the impact of losing access to more than 500,000 books removed from our library as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit.

The response was overwhelming, and the stories shared were powerful and heartfelt. It wasn’t just titles that disappeared—it was countless memories, research materials, and sources of inspiration for readers around the world. Below, we share some of the most impactful testimonials, highlighting the profound effect these removals have had on readers and researchers everywhere.

If you’d haven’t already done so, please share your story!


Tran D. A., Ha Tinh, Vietnam: It hampers my ability to look up data sources. Books in Vietnam are significantly less accessible and my economic background doesn’t allow me to afford these things.

R.F., Surrey, Canada: As a Wikipedia editor, the Internet Archive is one of the most useful tools to find citations and verify facts. By removing books from the Internet Archive, it hinders the ability to find sources for an open encyclopedia.

Meilan S., Washington, DC, USA: As the online history editor at a national magazine, I use the Internet Archive on an almost daily basis. It’s an invaluable tool for accessing books cited by my writers, conducting research for articles I’m writing, and fact-checking quotes and other information. I regularly link to the Internet Archive in our published content, as I believe we should be as transparent as possible regarding sourcing, in addition to offering readers links to sites where they can learn more about a given topic. It has been disheartening to find the majority of books I need to access for work now listed as “removed.” The removal of this content makes it more difficult for me to include diverse, in-depth and reliable sources in my writing and editing.

Tamia T., Montreal, Canada: Internet Archive gives me access to scholarly information that is not afforded to those outside of the post-secondary education system. The Internet Archive helps bridge the gap when it comes to literacy, comprehension of history, and the discovery of new works that are otherwise gate-kept from the average person.

Olga A., Moscow, Russia: I can’t proceed with my research on bioanthropology, regarding both the current state of this science and the history of this field. None of the books I’m looking for are available for purchase in my country, even if I, by some miracle, managed to find them in second-hand bookshops abroad and had great amounts of money to buy them.

Jason V. M., Tucson, AZ, USA: The Internet Archive has allowed me and my family to access books quickly, conveniently and safely. I’m afraid that without the Archive, access to teaching material for my daughter and studying material for myself has now become significantly limited at my income level and in my area.

Poppy, Indonesia: Most of literature I’ve been using from IA are ones I couldn’t find in my city’s library, either public or academic. Without IA, my academic progress would be halted.

Lyria V.W., Middle River, MD, USA: My school in the past wanted me to read books that were considered banned (like The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird) to learn about the culture and history at the time. I did not always have physical access to these books.

Zachary C., PA, USA: Without archive.org’s availability, I would have not been able to further my education on historical architecture and fashion.

Samson W., Omaha, NE, USA: It has made it more difficult to find quotes, to read quotes in full context, and to research language.

Nathan W., Portland, OR, USA: I purchase dozens of books every year, and check out even more from my local library — Internet Archive is an invaluable resource to explore books I’m interested in and quickly search for remembered passages or quotes from books I have already read.

Jefferson C., Managua, Nicaragua: Internet Archive had everything I needed to go through college, whilst not having ANY library available in my home country and with college books costing hundreds of dollars on top of import fee and taxes (which alone could be the salary of a person here).

Marina K., Minneapolis, MN, USA: I am an award-winning artist and writer for video games. I often need to research many diverse topics as an independent artist without institutional backing or studio resources. The Internet Archive is a valuable resource that allows me to create work that interacts more deeply with the world.

Harry S., UK: I’m a student studying Ancient History and having 500,000 books removed will undoubtedly remove my access to some sources I can’t get my hands on otherwise.

Carlos R., Aguascalientes, Mexico: I was reading Story : substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting (1997) and I no longer have access to it.

Alicia P., MD, USA: I organize Wikipedia editing events to improve Wikipedia articles about historical topics. We rely heavily on Internet Archive books as sources, since they are publicly available. This is essential for transparency in Wikipedia articles: every factual claim has a footnote, and the reader can click the hyperlink in the footnote to go directly to the source of the information in an Internet Archive book (often an older academic book that is no longer in print or at public libraries anyway).

Renard, Osasco, Brazil: The Internet Archive allowed me to expand my boundaries and access materials that do NOT exist here, or would be incredibly expensive to import, much of the price going to shipping and a reseller’s pockets.

Ethan S., Ottawa, Canada: I have been working on a project to document the history of social democratic governments in Canadian provinces and territories. These governments (by the NDP and CCF) are not well researched and the resources that are available at public libraries don’t always include older books, often written by members of cabinet or caucus. The Internet Archive has had some of the relevant books removed due to the lawsuit.

Berry J., Boston, MA, USA: I understand that publishers and authors have to make a profit but most of the material I am trying to access is written by people who are dead and whose publishers have stopped printing the material.

Chloe, London, UK: Internet Archive allows me to search a large number of books by keyword/name and it triggered my buying a lot of hard copies of books I would have never even known existed. I am so distressed that this has been taken away from me, as I research the history of lesbianism and it is already an extremely difficult niche field to research.

Camila N., Mexico City, Mexico: Cultural heritage, including documentary heritage, is essential for forging identities, offering knowledge, telling human history and promoting the progress of societies accompanied by cultural development.

Mary S., Rochester, NY, USA: It’s an access issue. It’s substantially harder to find the books I’m interested in reading. Heck, even for more common books, the libraries in my area are not practical to get to except by car, and I have a lot of friends who don’t have easy access to a car.

Robin L., Sydney, Australia: Having decreased access to books such as books on collage artists during certain parts of history affects my research, since I have limited to no access to such books in Australian libraries or bookshops both physical or digitally.

Samuel R., Chicago, IL, USA: In many cases there are not physical lending copies of titles i am looking for within 200 miles of my location, and no legal methods available to purchase e-versions. The Internet Archive is far and away the best solution for reading and preserving niche books across a variety of genres.

Zulma P., Covina, CA, USA: The Internet Archive has lots of books my local library doesn’t own and books that are very hard to find.

Thomas R., Manningham, Australia: These books being available on archive.org is a vital resource for me and many like me. A large amount of the Archive was never released in my corner of the globe, meaning I have few if any options for reading on niche subjects.

Juan V., Medellin, Colombia: I am a dance artist and require a big selection of options for my artistic research. Some of the books that I was using on my research are no longer available.

Sage L., Grand Rapids, MI, USA: I am an illustrator and character designer with a passion for science fiction. I use the Internet Archive to research projects that I don’t have enough background knowledge on. I frequently find that books I need are missing.

Oguz Alp K., Antalya, Turkey: In one word I can say: “devastation”. It is very difficult for people like me who live and do research in third world countries to access the books and documents in your archive.

Zachary B., Lockport, NY, USA: As someone who is working to understand the evolution of society through literature, reduced access to many classic works makes gathering information much more difficult.

Andrea T., Canada: I did not go to a university with a giant archive in the library for medieval texts, so to research these topics, free resources like Internet Archive really came into play. Not everyone will have an opportunity to read these books available at libraries. Not everyone can even afford to attend university, where many of these now removed texts are available for free in libraries and archives. Why should other students, and other people interested in these topics, be deprived of this free resource? Going into my Master’s degree, I have now lost a resource I relied on heavily through my post secondary education up until this point, hindering what sort of research I will be able to accomplish as I enter higher education.

Isa B., Lelystad, Netherlands: I was working on several papers for my education and I had to change sources because the literature was inaccessible despite it being of great importance to my research.

Mrittika D. S., Kolkata, India: Resources I had previously found on the Internet Archive site were all of a sudden no longer available when I searched for them. Hence, I faced a huge problem in completing my papers, as I had already formed a plan on what sources I wanted to refer to, and my plan was completely disrupted.

Schuyler V., Troy, NY, USA: While I am lucky to be near many physical libraries, none are as convenient and complete as the Internet Archive. Nearly all the books I’ve purchased in the last decade were ones I saw on the Internet Archive first.

Samantha F., Providence, RI, USA: Honestly? Without these books, my job becomes that much harder. Publishers aren’t going to put out a new run of, say, a 40-year-old book on specific aspects of animation history, because it’s not profitable. So, to remove them limits the number of folks like me, who are trying to tell a cohesive and factual story, who can actually work to do so as these materials get rarer and more expensive.

Kerry L., Boston, MA, USA: I had used copies of books a few months back when doing research for my master’s thesis—when I came back to them in April and May, I was surprised to find many of my more crucial secondary sources were gone. These books specifically are not as prevalent in public libraries, being older and region-specific. I was fortunate that I had taken detailed notes and quotes, but I was unable to check my references for books that were physically located miles and miles away from me.

Nicolas T., Paris, France: This gray zone of books still under copyright but that have disappeared from bookstores and libraries can be so useful… and the DRM on digital copies was very clever and fair.

Lola, Poland: On a personal level, this has severely limited the potential for both me and my partner to read books, we don’t have the money or ability to purchase actual books or E books and while there is a library near by, they usually don’t have the books we are looking for, it has in turn likely limited us from reading so many books.

John P., Menlo Park, CA, USA: In 2016 a fire in my home office left my personal library (about 700 books) smoke damaged, but still readable. Rather than let all these books go to waste, I donated them to the Internet Archive, so books in my collection they hadn’t already scanned would be available to the rest of the world. I had hoped I would be able to refer to the collection there. Unfortunately, many of these books are no longer available due to the lawsuit restrictions.

Andrew M., Easton, CT, USA: Prior to the removal of books on the IA I was able to access works on niche topics like La Terra in Piazza (1984) to review and promote reading about all sorts of interesting things to a wider audience. Since the removal, I’ve already struggled to finance a project translating a book on the causes of the fall of Rome, which would not have happened if I’d had access to materials that had been on IA at an earlier date.

Stephano L., Peru: The links I used for citations in university works are now dead, so I will have to correct that in many papers I wrote.


Editorial note: Statements have been edited for clarity.

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Our supporters have joined us arm-in-arm for decades against corporate interests, censorship, and digital erasure. Your commitment to preserving information and cultural heritage fuels our mission to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge. We want to celebrate you and thank you for being the foundation of our support system. 

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The Backrooms of the Internet Archive

Like many bits of Internet Culture, this simple image of an empty series of rooms represents a deep-repressed or recently-remembered memory of a common Internet Legend, or it’s just a shot of nothing.

If the answer is that it’s a shot of nothing, let’s get you up to speed.

This image floated around message boards in the 2010s, posted with commentary or as a general use for a slightly off-putting photograph of a less-than-well-maintained location, and was, by most standards, rather indistinct. The internet, after all, is filled with odd images and weird drawings that cause a reaction, often after many different attempts to achieve the effect. Survivorship Bias for memes, one might say. So if one more image of an indistinct indoor landscape was out there, not much was going to happen of it.

That changed in 2019, when the image was given a legend and history, made up out of the air, that it was a rare photograph of The Backrooms. The phrasing of the original declaration speaks for itself:

“If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in
God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby, because it sure as hell has heard you”

If this writing strikes you as some sort of odd, rather dramatic addition to the image of a room, then you’re being introduced to creepypasta, or as some might call them, urban legends and campfire stories. It’s part of the overwhelming need for humans to tell tales that excite and frighten, to compose meaning or horror out of the darkness, and even the mundane.

The concept of the “Backrooms” also touches on a very frequent theme of many different horror and science-fiction movies – that there are service tunnels and hard to access areas woven throughout life, known only to a special few. Movies such as The Matrix, The Adjustment Bureau, Us, Beyond the Walls, Dark City, The Cube, and many more have explored this theme – or used it as a jumping off point to tell another story.

The difference, here, is nobody really knew where that very first image came from. For a very long time.

This extended period of not finding the original source of the image left an unfinished tune, a half-written poem, about where it came from and what it meant. And the lack of information in the image as it showed up on these image boards seemed to ensure the mystery would never be found.

So people filled in the blanks.

A Subreddit called /r/backrooms, an extended web video series called Backrooms, and endless CGI models and creations meant to extend the legend and the origin story became years of effort by thousands to draw the missing pieces of a puzzle that was never a puzzle.

A constantly shifting set of games with titles based off The Backrooms were created and presented for a willing and happy audience; it’d be unfair to choose one or even a few to highlight – there are dozens.

All of them represent the efforts to bring you into a state of heightened fear or paranoia as you lurked through a series of dark hallways, overlit carpeted spaces, and a growing dread. There’s no question there was a huge audience for this, and it is sometimes thought that this entire legend brought mainstream attention to liminal spaces, a perception of the in-between geographies of less unsettling locations. It is now enjoying life as an aesthetic movement.

Supporting this explosion of creativity and storytelling was the continued fact that nobody knew where the photograph came from. This situation, of a core image having a completely shadowy and unexplained origin, is arguably the foundation of its power.

That changed, recently.

This appears to be the origin of the Backrooms Photograph.

In March 2003, there was a former furniture store called Rohner’s Home Furnishings in Oshkosh, Wisconsin whose second floor was being renovated by the (somewhat) new tenants, HobbyTown.

Renovating the space from the sale of furniture to a new remote-controlled racing car track (among other aspects) meant pulling down partitions and ripping out carpet. This inspired taking photographs of the process, one of which, DSC001561.JPG, was the legendary “Back Rooms” image.

18 times in the last 20 years, crawlers affiliated with the Internet Archive moved through this page and grabbed portions of it, speculatively, to store for future research and reference. As the whole image was grabbed, reading the metadata of the original image reveals the date it was taken (June 12, 2002), and the camera used (a Sony Cyber-Shot model). The great unknown image, the unsettling photo of a mysterious place and time, was revealed.

However the original, anonymous user stumbled onto this photograph, it appears it was taken from either the Wayback directly, or the Wayback Machine crawled the same site the user had found, and kept that webpage’s preservation for over 20 years.

Emerging, Blinking, Into the Light

Naturally, as news of the Backrooms being “found” travels throughout the world, responses have wildly ranged.

For some, this is a proof that “with enough eyeballs, all problems are shallow”. While we might argue about the relative worth of a given effort, the fact that it is possible for word to travel about a mystery to the point of being solved means that the world is a hair less intimidating and scary. Our shared efforts and cooperation can find the answer to a seemingly impossible-to-answer question. The fact that an image with basically no information and a blurry set of components could be tracked down and revealed is a miracle.

For others, the mystery being solved removes a little bit of magic and wonder from the world. It says that there’s no kayfabe, no holding of mystery in our hands without peeking further to tear out the secret. In this perspective, something special has been lost.

But there’s another lesson as well.

The Internet Archive’s crawlers moved through the pages of a hobby store multiple times over the years, capturing HTML, photographs, and time-stamping the process, with the equivalent care of an at-risk website, a politician on the national stage, or a legendary and obvious moment in history provided via a PDF file.

This agnostic, wide-ranging crawl likely represented both the original source of the image, and a persistent, dependable URL to reference back to it, as thousands are doing at this very moment.

This is the mission of the Wayback Machine – be the dependable, accessible connection to web history, and therefore all history. Give the Internet its Memory, which would otherwise be lost.

If you mourn the loss of legend and mystery in our quest to keep the truth transparent, available and persistent, don’t worry – the process of internalizing and analyzing the image to give the Backrooms history its full and complete story has already begun:

Here’s to the next mystery, and the next unsettling information being brought into the light and presented for the education, research and entertainment of the Internet, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine under DDoS cyber-attack

The Internet Archive, the nonprofit research library that’s home to millions of historical documents, preserved websites, and media content, is currently in its third day of warding off an intermittent DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) cyber-attack. According to library staff, the collections are safe, though service remains inconsistent. Access to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine – which preserves the history of more than 866 billion web pages – has also been impacted.

Since the attacks began on Sunday, the DDoS intrusion has been launching tens of thousands of fake information requests per second. The source of the attack is unknown.

 “Thankfully the collections are safe, but we are sorry that the denial-of-service attack has knocked us offline intermittently during these last three days,” explained Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive. “With the support from others and the hard work of staff we are hardening our defenses to provide more reliable access to our library. What is new is this attack has been sustained, impactful, targeted, adaptive, and importantly, mean.”

Cyber-attacks are increasingly frequent against libraries and other knowledge institutions, with the British Library, the Solano County Public Library (California), the Berlin Natural History Museum, and Ontario’s London Public Library all being recent victims.

In addition to a wave of recent cyber-attacks, the Internet Archive is also being sued by the US book publishing and US recording industries associations, which are claiming copyright infringement and demanding combined damages of hundreds of millions of  dollars and diminished services from all libraries. 

“If our patrons around the globe think this latest situation is upsetting, then they should be very worried about what the publishing and recording industries have in mind,” added Kahle. “I think they are trying to destroy this library entirely and hobble all libraries everywhere. But just as we’re resisting the DDoS attack, we appreciate all the support in pushing back on this unjust litigation against our library and others.”

Book Talk: Attack from Within by Barbara McQuade

Join us for a VIRTUAL book talk with legal scholar BARBARA McQUADE on her New York Times bestseller, ATTACK FROM WITHIN, about disinformation’s impact on democracy. NYU professor and author CHARLTON McILWAIN will facilitate our discussion.

REGISTER NOW

“A comprehensive guide to the dynamics of disinformation and a necessary call to the ethical commitment to truth that all democracies require.”

Timothy Snyder, author of the New York Times bestseller On Tyranny

American society is more polarized than ever before. We are strategically being pushed apart by disinformation—the deliberate spreading of lies disguised as truth—and it comes at us from all sides: opportunists on the far right, Russian misinformed social media influencers, among others. It’s endangering our democracy and causing havoc in our electoral system, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and in our Capitol. Advances in technology including rapid developments in artificial intelligence threaten to make the problems even worse by amplifying false claims and manufacturing credibility.

In Attack from Within, legal scholar and analyst Barbara McQuade, shows us how to identify the ways disinformation is seeping into all facets of our society and how we can fight against it. The book includes:

  • The authoritarian playbook: a brief history of disinformation from Mussolini and Hitler to Bolsonaro and Trump, chronicles the ways in which authoritarians have used disinformation to seize and retain power.
  • Disinformation tactics—like demonizing the other, seducing with nostalgia, silencing critics, muzzling the media, condemning the courts; stoking violence—and why they work.
  • An explanation of why America is particularly vulnerable to disinformation and how it exploits our First Amendment Freedoms, sparks threats and violence, and destabilizes social structures.
  • Real, accessible solutions for countering disinformation and maintaining the rule of law such as making domestic terrorism a federal crime, increasing media literacy in schools, criminalizing doxxing, and much more.

Disinformation is designed to evoke a strong emotional response to push us toward more extreme views, unable to find common ground with others. The false claims that led to the breathtaking attack on our Capitol in 2021 may have been only a dress rehearsal. Attack from Within shows us how to prevent it from happening again, thus preserving our country’s hard-won democracy.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

BARBARA McQUADE is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where she teaches criminal law and national security law. She is also a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. From 2010 to 2017, McQuade served as the U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She was appointed by President Barack Obama, and was the first woman to serve in her position. McQuade also served as vice chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and co-chaired its Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee.

Before her appointment as U.S. Attorney, McQuade served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Detroit for 12 years, including service as Deputy Chief of the National Security Unit. In that role, she prosecuted cases involving terrorism financing, foreign agents, threats, and export violations. McQuade serves on a number of non-profit boards, and served on the Biden-Harris Transition Team in 2020-2021. She has been recognized by The Detroit News with the Michiganian of the Year Award, the Detroit Free Press with the Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership, Crain’s Detroit Business as a Newsmaker of the Year and one of Detroit’s Most Influential Women, and the Detroit Branch NAACP and Arab American Civil Rights League with their Tribute to Justice Award. McQuade is a graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school. She and her husband live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and have four children.s an assistant professor of English at Emory University with a courtesy appointment in quantitative theory and methods. He is the author of American Literature and the Long Downturn: Neoliberal Apocalypse (2020). His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of BooksThe RumpusDissent, and other publications.

CHARLTON McILWAIN
Author of the recent book, Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the Afronet to Black Lives Matter, Dr. Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Pathways & Public Interest Technology at New York University, where he is also Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU Steinhardt. He works at the intersections of computing technology, race, inequality, and racial justice activism. He has served as an expert witness in landmark U.S. Federal Court cases on reverse redlining/racial targeting in mortgage lending and recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services about the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence on the financial services sector. He is the author of the recent PolicyLink report Algorithmic Discrimination: A Framework and Approach to Auditing & Measuring the Impact of Race-Targeted Digital Advertising. He writes regularly for outlets such as The Guardian, Slate’s Future Tense, MIT Technology Review and other outlets about the intersection of race and technology. McIlwain is the founder of the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies, and is Board President at Data & Society Research Institute. He leads NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, is NYU’s Designee to the Public Interest Technology University Network, and serves on the executive committee as co-chair of the ethics panel for the International Panel on the Information Environment.

Book Talk: Attack from Within by Barbara McQuade
Thursday, June 6 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
Register now for the virtual event!

DWeb Fellows: Where Are They Now? (Part 1)

Guest blog by ngọc triệu from the DWeb Camp Core Organizing team. 

Since the program kicked off in 2019, the DWeb Fellowship has welcomed 62 fellows from more than 20 countries across five continents, spanning North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to reconnect with some of the DWeb Fellows from previous cohorts. We caught up on how we’ve been since our last encounter, delved into our current projects, and reminisced about our shared experiences at DWeb Camp.

In this post, let’s join Stacco (Fellow 2023), Remy (Fellow 2022), and me in our conversations below!

*Please note that the conversations have been edited for length and clarity.

____

Q1 ngọc: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! Can you start by introducing yourself and sharing what you’re working on right now?

Stacco: Hi, yes! I’m Stacco from DisCO.coop, which is the project I represented at DWeb Camp 2023. DisCO is a cooperative intersection of feminist and anticapitalist responses to a lot of things like DAOs, what we want to do in the workplace, and how we want to spend our time productively. And it’s also a critical approach to designing technology. DisCO was founded in 2018, but it came out of the experience of a cooperative that we founded on distributed principles, called Guerrilla Media Collective. And a lot of the stuff that we prototype in Guerrilla Media Collective with economics and governance have led into DisCO.

Remy: Hey there, I’m Remy, from the 2022 cohort. I’m currently working at the Open Technology Fund as a programme specialist. I’ve worked kind of on an array of projects, but we get a series of applications that focus on circumventing Internet censorship in authoritarian contexts, whether that be research projects, community, convenings and so on. 

Q2 ngọc: What’s one thing from DWeb Camp that you’ve taken with you into your current work?

Remy:  When reflecting on my experience at DWeb Camp, I find two significant takeaways: 

The first one being that, at that time, I was coming from a very academic space. So, most of the work that I was doing was really focused and consolidated within academia, which was a fairly small realm of people. It was mainly archivists that I was working with, so we had kind of a narrow lane and scope. 

However, upon engaging with the broader web community, I was exposed to a diverse array of individuals working on directly related projects, each with intersecting identities and roles. I remember meeting a speculative fiction author, and I was like: “Wow, this is kind of an interesting addition to this cohort of people that I don’t think I would have naturally included in a conference!”. I also got to unlearn what a conference is and looks like, you know, I’m going to show up with my little briefcase and give my presentation, because that’s what academia looks like. And then coming in, it was a much more kind of relaxed vibe and open conversation with an array of different people. So I thought that was really interesting and opened my eyes like, wow, we do need to include more people in these conferences that we’re at, because designers play just as big a role as researchers and developers. 

And then I would say, the second thing that I learned was really what it takes from the ground up to develop a mesh network. I always kind of come back and think about that — all the love and time that it takes, and the patience to care for these systems. It really got me on a whole journey about thinking of systems of care, and what those look like in technical spaces.

Stacco: Following DWeb Camp 2023, I invited brandon (Fellow 2022, 2023) and mai (DWeb Fellowship Director 2019-2023) to Spain for a meeting called “DisCO Remastered”, which mai covered in an article. From this experience, we developed two prototypes, including one called “community supported digital commons,” inspired by the principles of community-supported agriculture. We have people who are more conscious about the food they eat and where it comes from. So how about we have that type of consciousness for the digital tools that mediate our daily lives? Having community funding and accessibility for digital commons is very important to ensure fair compensation for labor and improve accessibility to technology. 

Additionally, collaborating with brandon, we aim to explore cooperative alternatives to platforms like Spotify, but going much further. What if the musicians could develop their own technology with torrents? What if they could take full control of their work and earnings? 

Also for me, I really love the diverse age ranges, genders, sexual orientation, and provenances of DWeb Camp, especially among the Fellows. The Fellows was a super varied group and it was really fascinating to engage with people whose experiences differed from mine. I’m like, “Oh, your background is totally different from mine, let me find out about it!” There was like this commonly held space, and that really inspired me. When I was writing the introduction for our newly released website, I was actually thinking of the Fellows! 

Q3 ngọc: We’re gonna get a little bit retrospective here, what motivated you to apply (or reapply) for the Fellowship? Did the program meet your expectations and were you able to accomplish what you set out to do as a Fellow? 

Stacco: Yeah, absolutely. So the first time I couldn’t go. The second time, I applied again because I wanted to get a taste of what the decentralized community is like. More than the projects, I wanted to see what the humans behind them are like. There were a lot of contradictions which I also saw at Camp that were very interesting: There were projects which I had no interest in whatsoever, and there were other projects that I found really interesting. There’s also humans that I wanted to meet. I had been collaborating with brandon from Resonate Coop for four years and it was a great chance to meet him in person. It really was maybe like the best week I had last year. I was really, really happy. And I was really happy because of the human connections. 

With brandon king, I did a presentation that was quite successful. It was very great because we spoke about technology in a critical way and we mixed it with music, the audio, and the video. Then we left all the devices behind and we walked into the forest. That was really special. Some of the human connections that were fostered have carried on. That’s the quality time that you can only get, especially post-pandemic, by sharing a physical space. 

We were also really privileged. If you think about it, at least for the Fellows, for a week, we didn’t have to think about money or anything. We ate, we slept, we walked, we rested, we played guitar, and we danced. And that took money to do. Only that didn’t come from Mars, but money, which is like a pittance compared to some of the budgets that are being handled. So it makes you think, well, with about the distributions of value, what would life be like if it was more like DWeb all over? 

Remy: I remember, I found the Fellowship through a mutual colleague who worked at the Internet Archive. And at the time, I was really interested in the Internet Archive because I was working at a small human rights organization. We were using the Internet Archive all the time and I thought it was a really cool project. I was interested in finding out who these people that run it are and what does it look like?

And then the Fellowship popped up. At that time, I had been inhabiting a tiny little bubble that no one else really understood: I was a master’s student caught between an archivist school and public policy and people were kind of looking at me cross-eyed for talking about distributed archives or decentralised archives. So when I found out the Fellowship, I was like, wow, here’s a group that I really like and admire, and they are talking about the same thing I’ve been talking about. That’s kind of what motivated me — maybe I can learn from a lot of these people who are probably much more developed in the work than I am, and I can share this small use case that I’ve been doing and working on. 

When I read the blurb about DWeb Camp, I was like, it’s a group of people going to the woods and talking about tech. I thought it didn’t even seem real. I was wondering, like, is this real? I didn’t have much of an expectation rather than a feeling that I am going to meet really interesting people that are really smart and working on interesting projects. And then I was pleasantly surprised by how many projects I had been aware of, there were projects I’d written about in my papers as things to look at, and then I was able to meet them at the DWeb naturally. 

I mean, you’re just chatting, and then you were like: “Your project sounds really familiar. What’s it called?” And then you were like, “Whoa, that’s crazy. I was writing about your project!” I was just shocked that I was naturally coming across those people in the space, it felt like a very surreal moment. I got to meet Mark, who’s the director of the Wayback Machine. And subsequently, I’ve seen him so many times at other conferences that we’ve been to. And it’s always like, I just get so excited and happy and like, want to give him a big hug. It takes me back to that special time that we all spent together. 

ngọc: What’s one piece of advice or recommendation you’d like to share with the future cohort? 

Remy: Well, that’s a good question! I’d say, be confident in your ability and skills that you’re bringing and know that it’s a space of people that want to collaborate and work with you. It can be incredibly intimidating, walking into a space where you don’t know anyone and sometimes it feels like maybe there’s pre-existing communities of people that already know each other, but have the confidence to just walk up and start talking to them and know that it’s a very open community and everyone is really welcoming.

It just sometimes takes the courage within you to make that first step forward and just walk into a circle of people and say: “Hi, this is who I am.” I know it’s always easier said than done, but I have thought that that was when the most natural conversations happen. And you know, be kind to yourself. A lot of these conferences can feel like a marathon sometimes and it can feel like you’re missing out on this or that, but the experience is always there so if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed or burnt out, just step out. Some of my favourite moments from Camp were sitting with the Fellows and making buttons and just giving ourselves a second to breathe outside of everything else that was going on. 

So be confident, be courageous, and be kind to yourself when you’re there experiencing it. Another thing that I found really helpful was journalling. I journaled two or three times a day to help remember how I was feeling and what I was doing. And that was a really interesting experience to look back and read on. That would be my tips for people going to DWeb. 

Stacco: I’d advise people to not go crazy and try to join every talk or session at Camp. Just be where you are and you’ll find interesting people to talk to and interesting projects to collaborate on. While you’re there, make yourself known. In addition, don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to challenge people in a friendly way. The most special thing are the Build Days, when you’re setting up camp and we’re getting to know people. Don’t miss it, that’s my recommendation! 

___

Thanks to Remy and Stacco for joining the conversation and sharing their experience as a DWeb Fellow. 

We’re currently at the final stage of reviewing all 2024 Fellowship applications. Stay tuned to meet our new cohort in June! 

End of Term Web Archive – Preserving the Transition of a Nation

It’s that time again. The 2024 End of Term crawl has officially begun! The End of Term Web Archive #EOTArchive hosts an initiative named the End of Term crawl to archive U.S. government websites in the .gov and .mil web domains — as well as those harder-to-find government websites hosted on .org, .edu, and other top level domains (TLDs) — as one administrative term ends and a new term begins. 

End of Term crawls have been completed for term transitions in 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020. The results of these efforts is preserved in the End of Term Web Archive. In total, over 500 terabytes of government websites and data have been archived through the End of Term Web Archive efforts. These archives can be searched full-text via the Internet Archive’s collections search and also downloaded as bulk data for machine-assisted analysis.

The purpose of the End of Term Web Archive is to preserve a record of government websites for historical and research purposes. It is important to capture these websites because they can provide a snapshot of government messaging before and after the transition of terms. The End of Term Web Archive preserves information that may no longer be available on the live web for open access.

The End of Term Archive is a collaborative effort by the Internet Archive along with the University of North Texas (UNT), Stanford University, Library of Congress (LC), U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Past partners include the University of CA’s California Digital Library (CDL), George Washington University, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI).

Four images of Whitehouse.gov captured between 2008 and 2020
Whitehouse.gov captures from: 2008 Sept. 15; 2013 Mar. 21; 2017 Feb. 3; and 2021 Feb. 25

We are committed to preserving a record of U.S. government websites. But we need your help to complete the 2024 End of Term crawl. 

How can you help?! 

We have a list of top level domains from the General Services Administration (GSA) and from previous End of term crawls. But we need volunteers to help us out. We are currently accepting nominations for websites to be included in the 2024 End of Term Web Archive.

Submit a url nomination by going to digital2.library.unt.edu/nomination/eth2024/.
We encourage you to nominate any and all U.S. federal government websites that you want to make sure get captured. Nominating urls deep within .gov/.mil websites helps to make our web crawls as thorough and complete as possible. 

Individuals and institutions nominating seed urls are recognized on the individual contributors leaderboard and the institutions leaderboard!

Explore the End of Term Web Archive with full text search and download the data!

Eyeing the Future: Harkness Eye Institute’s Ophthalmology Journals Preserved at Internet Archive

When the decision was made to move the Harkness Eye Institute in New York City from its home of nearly 90 years, no one knew what to do with its vast collection of academic journals. Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology, found himself tasked with the job.

Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology

The Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology had operated the Institute on Manhattan’s 165th Street in Washington Heights since 1933. Its stately brick building was possible thanks to a $5 million gift from philanthropist Edward Harkness. In 1922, NY-Presbyterian Hospital announced that the current location would be demolished to create a new cancer center, and the Eye Institute would be relocated to other locations on the Medical Center campus.

The move meant emptying the 9-floor Institute, including the John M. Wheeler Library. The collection consisted of a rare book collection; more than 160 ophthalmology journals (7,000 volumes) published in English, French, Japanese, German, and Spanish, dating back to the 1800s; ophthalmic textbooks; and a collection of ophthalmic and medical memorabilia. For many years, the library maintained a small museum with antique ophthalmic instruments and other memorabilia on the first floor of the Eye Institute. In the 1950s the space was converted to clinical use so most of the museum artifacts were placed in storage. With its recent move, the department could accommodate the rare books and memorabilia, but not the large collection of journals and some textbooks—leaving the fate of the remaining items in the air.  

E. S. Harkness Eye Institute, circa 1933.

It was the end of an era for Casper, who has worked at the Institute since 1986 and was a frequent user of the library’s resources. He said he felt somewhat responsible for saving as much of the library contents as possible. “The Wheeler Collection really was on the brink of a landfill,” said Casper. 

He spent his first year of retirement looking for a suitable home for the library contents. Recognizing the unique historic value of many of the journals, he approached the National Library of Medicine, the National Eye Institute, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Museum, among others, all of whom replied in a similar manner—they had neither the space nor the resources to maintain the collection. 

Casper had no luck finding a place to rehouse the sizable donation, until he reached out to the Internet Archive. Soon after making contact, an Archive staffer in New York came to take measurements to ship the remaining Wheeler Collection to the Archive. A few days later, a truck arrived and 23 pallets of journals and books were loaded. The items will be safely stored in a physical archive and scanned so the public can have digital access online.   

“The preservation and electronic dissemination of this collection is truly a dream come true,” Casper said, who appreciates that the donation process was seamless, with no charge to the university, and the journals will live on for future generations in a more accessible format.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this. People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away.”
Dr. Daniel Casper,
Columbia University professor emeritus

Tracking older print articles that have never been digitized can be time consuming for researchers, and many previous studies are overlooked because they can be difficult to identify and locate, Casper said. With digital access to journals, researchers can avoid reinventing the wheel in their research and build on past scholarly evidence more easily, he said.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this,” Casper said. “People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away. That would imply the collection is worthless, but it has value.”

Casper hopes the digitization of the Wheeler Collection leads to an acceleration of advances in science as researchers will eventually have free, online access to this invaluable collection of knowledge.

“I’ve become an Internet Archive booster. It saved us,” he said. “The Internet Archive is an incredible resource.”

New Audiobook Anthology Highlights Public Domain Folktales from 1928

After Laura Gibbs retired from teaching mythology and folklore at the University of Oklahoma, she wanted to continue sharing her love of storytelling with digital learners everywhere. Following her own passion for making folk stories as accessible to all as possible, she began volunteering with a nonprofit that produces free audio books for the public.

Gibbs, who now lives in Austin, devotes one to two hours each day to recording and reviewing audio for LibriVox, a volunteer community of readers who record free public domain audiobooks. Her most recent project involved finding folktales, fairy tales and mythology in the Internet Archive that were recently released into the public domain to compile an anthology, “Tales from 1928,” available to read at Internet Archive or listen via LibriVox.

Tales of 1928: Listen | Read

Gibbs selected short stories from 20 books that were published in 1928, as those works are now in the public domain in the U.S. and can be shared, remixed and reused without copyright restrictions. In curating her collection, she was thoughtful about how to remix the creative works in a package that would appeal to listeners. 

“The variety of folktales and fairy tales in the world is just enormous. So many think it begins and ends with the Brothers Grimm,” said Gibbs, of the German folklorists. “My number one goal was to have worldwide coverage—stories not just from Europe, but also from Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and the Americas.”

Overall, Gibbs has recorded nine books of African folktales with more than 200 stories available for listening here.

Gibbs also wanted stories with accessible language—not too many old fashioned “thee” or “thou” references. Once she decided on the line up, she invited people to record each story, and was pleased with the response from new and experienced readers to volunteer for the project.

In addition to producing the anthology, Gibbs “proof listens” to book chapters by other readers before they are shared with the LibriVox community. The work involves careful attention to detail—listening for background noise (a car honking, phone ringing, etc.) or misspoken words. Gibbs flags the noise by marking the exact time, which she then reports back to the readers for re-recording.

Gibbs said she’s enjoyed the range of materials she gets to review. “It’s fun discovering weird, random stuff in the public domain,” she said. Her proof listening projects are listed here.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods: Listen

Recently, Gibbs proof listened to the English translation of the 1928 classic, “Bambi: A Life in the Woods,” by Felix Salton, translated by Whittaker Chambers. “The book is fantastic, and the reader is the best…she performed all the different voices of the animals and even the individual fawns,” she said. “If anybody wants something beautiful and inspiring to listen to, it’s now available at LibriVox and also at the Internet Archive, where LibriVox hosts all its audio files.” 

Gibbs plans to continue creating audio folktale anthologies by year. She’s already started on works from 1927. She added: “For the rest of my life, we are going to have new content entering the public domain, year by year, so I’ll keep going.”

For more on Gibbs’s curation of African folk tales see: Library as Laboratory Recap: Curating the African Folktales in the Internet Archive’s Collection | Internet Archive Blogs

For more on the public domain works from 1928, see: Public Domain Day Celebrates Creative Works from 1928 | Internet Archive Blogs