A part of a series: The Internet Archive as Research Library
Written by Caralee Adams
When gathering evidence for a court case or researching human rights violations, Lili Siri Spira often found that the material she needed was preserved by the Internet Archive.
Spira is the Social Media and Campaign Marketing Manager for TechEquity Collaborative, as well as the co-manager of RatedResilient.com, a platform that promotes psycho-social resilience for digital activists. She has interned at the Center for Justice & Accountability and was an open-source investigator at the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley during college.
In Spira’s work, the Wayback Machine has played an integral role in providing stamped artifacts and metadata.
For example, when researching the Bolivian coup in 2019, she wanted to learn more about the sentiment of indigenous people toward political leadership. Spira used the Wayback Machine to examine how indigenous Bolivian websites had changed since 2009. She discovered after initial criticism, some websites seemed to have disappeared.
“The great thing about the Internet Archive is that it really protects the chain of custody,” Spira said. “It’s not only that you look back, but you can even find a website now and capture it in time with the metadata.”
In 2020, The Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Violations provided global guidelines for using public digital information as evidence in international criminal and human rights investigations. Spira said this allows preserved website data to be used in court proceedings to hold parties accountable.
On other occasions, Spira has investigated companies suspected of unethical practices. Sometimes executives openly admitted to certain behaviors, only to later deny their action. Companies may attempt to erase past communication, but Spira said she can uncover the previous versions of websites through the Wayback Machine.
“Our knowledge is not being held sacred by many people in this country and around the world,” Spira said. “It’s incredibly important for research work in any field to have access to preserved [digital] information—especially when that research is making certain allegations against powerful entities and corporations.”
We thank Lili and her colleagues for sharing their story for how they use the Internet Archive’s collections in their work.