We talked to the head of this major online library to find out why.
A year ago, Donald Trump said he would consider closing off parts of the internet.
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet, and we have to do something,” he told a crowd while campaigning at the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina. “We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people…about, maybe in certain areas, closing the internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech! Freedom of speech! These are foolish people…We’ve got to do something with the internet.”
A week later, during the CNN Republican presidential debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Trump if “closing the internet” might put the United States “in line with China and North Korea”—two countries known to censor the online world. Trump responded that groups like ISIS are using the web to take our “young impressionable youth” and that he “sure as hell [doesn’t] want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet.”
So now, as Trump prepares to take office, a number of internet-freedom activists are worried he may make good on these campaign promises. They include Brewster Kahle, the founder of the San Francisco-based Internet Archive, one of the biggest online libraries in the world that curates 279 billion web pages, 2.9 million films and videos, 3.1 million recordings, and much more. Part of the Internet Archive is the Wayback Machine, a search engine for past incarnations of web pages, some of which are no longer accessible. In a FAQ posted to the Internet Archive blog last weekend, Kahle wrote that the Internet Archive had been planning a partial backup in Canada. But Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and his election as president “ramped us into higher gear, moving us further and faster than we would have. The election led us to think bigger.”
“On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change,” Kahle wrote in a statement on November 29. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change…[I]t means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.”