Politics

The Internet Archive Is Moving to Canada to Protect Itself from Trump

December 2nd 2016

By:
Mike Rothschild

During and after his presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump made a number of statements with troubling implications for the First Amendment and freedom of speech.

In light of these threats, an internet library resource called the Internet Archive is planning to move its operations to Canada.

The non-profit, which was founded in 1996, has been saving hundreds of millions of web pages every week, making them available on its "Wayback Machine" website for all to read in perpetuity. In moving to Canada, the group hopes that its vast library of material will be safe from the prospect of being "closed off" after any possible future terrorist attack or state of emergency.

Brewster Kahle, archive.org founder, wrote in a blog post Tuesday of the history of libraries being one of destruction and repression. He noted that some were destroyed by disasters, others closed by fascist regimes that made reading and collecting books a crime. Without mentioning Trump, Kahle wrote that "on November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change."

Given that this "radical change" might involve repression of the First Amendment, the group plans to open an "Internet Archive of Canada" and making a copy of its entire database.

In that database are any number of possible pages and publications the Trump administration might find objectionable.

As one example, the entire archive of the slick ISIS propaganda magazine Dabiq is posted online by the Clarion Project, an anti-extremism non-profit. Trump might demand these magazine issues be made unavailable to Americans "for their own safety." It's also possible that Trump could order the deletion of any article or profile that he deems to be "libelous," or the censoring of web pages of mosques or the writings of certain religious figures. While these would all be First Amendment violations, there's little that could stop Trump from doing it, at least in the short term.

In a December 2015 speech in South Carolina, Trump insinuated that self-radicalized terrorists would force the U.S. to "close up the internet" and anyone who decried it as a First Amendment violation was "foolish." He reinforced that by claiming in a debate a month later that closing parts of the internet "when we're at war with somebody" might be necessary. He's also spoken of "opening up" national libel laws (which don't exist) to allow him to sue news organizations, and "win lots of money," and most recently of criminalizing flag burning by the revoking of citizenship - both of which are in violation of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

If Kahle and his non-profit are able to raise the "millions" needed, all "cultural materials" and educational items will still exist on the Wayback Machine, safely ensconced in Canada.

Archive.org did not immediately respond to a request for comment.