The entire internet will be backed up in Canada to save it from Donald Trump

With a Donald Trump presidency looming over the United States, everyone from environmental scientists to human-rights organisations is having to contend with a national leader that has, over the past months, shown a fundamental opposition to what it is they do. Now, a US-based organisation that archives the internet for future generations has announced its decision to create a full backup in Canada, to escape future censorship under Trump.

“On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change,” wrote the Internet Archive in a blog post. “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. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.”

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organisation, and has been archiving the internet for 20 years. Around 300 million new web pages are added each week, and this database enables resources such as the Wayback Machine, which allows users to roll back to older versions of stored websites. There’s more to this than nostalgia for mid-1990s site design, however. Being able to look through digital records allows journalists to, for example, fact-check politicians’ claims. 

Claims such as those made by Donald Trump during the campaign trail that the technology industry needs to “close that internet up” to curb extremism.

“Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech,’” Trump said onboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant last December. “These are foolish people.”

First spotted by Motherboard, the blog post details the Internet Archive’s plans to create a backup of its vast stores on Canadian soil. The organisation says this will “cost millions”, and is asking for tax-deductible donations to help pay for it.  

Given Trump’s recent comments about sending people that burn the American flag to jail, despite the fact the right to do so has twice been affirmed by the US Supreme Court, the move by the Internet Archive seems prudent – both in terms of avoiding censorship and the threat of historical revisionism.

Outside of recent political changes, an extra backup is likely a good idea regardless. As the organisation points out, archives have always faced the threat of destruction: “Throughout history, libraries have fought against terrible violations of privacy – where people have been rounded up simply for what they read. At the Internet Archive, we are fighting to protect our readers’ privacy in the digital world.”

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