from the three-years-of-content-is-not-really-an-'archive' dept
It appears the UK Conservative Party isn't quite finished "archiving" its history into the nearest memory hole. Last week, it was discovered that PM David Cameron's party's webmasters had sent speeches made from 2000-2010 into the ether, aided by an altered robots.txt that kept Google from crawling its pages and prompted a retroactive deletion of the corresponding pages from the Internet Archive.
The Guardian passes on the news that the same behavior is being observed over at the Conservative's YouTube account.
Now it has emerged that every video on the Conservatives' YouTube page that dates from before 2010 has been removed or marked as private. Videos such as Ask David Cameron: Shared ownership, EU referendum, PMQs are now marked as unavailable on YouTube. Others, such as Boris Johnson at the pre-election rally in Swindon, and David Cameron down on the farm, are now unlisted, ensuring that only users with a direct link can see them.WebcameronUK, the official YouTube channel now hosts only 60 videos. At the moment, 296 videos are still listed at the Conservative's official site. However, videos created previous to the party's arbitrary cutoff date will not load (which, in this case, appears to be April 24, 2009).
A member of the Conservative party offered this excuse.
On Wednesday, Chris Grayling said that there is "a limit to how much you can put and keep on your website year after year", and a Conservative spokesman claimed that the changes to the website were to "allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide – how we are clearing up Labour’s economic mess, taking the difficult decisions and standing up for hardworking people.”Yes, storage limits can be an issue, but it's hard to believe the party currently in power in the UK can't afford to purchase more. Furthermore, if storage is such an issue, let YouTube handle the storage/bandwidth and just host links at the website. Finally, storing text takes next to no space at all, so this excuse doesn't really pan out for all the (text only) speeches the Conservatives removed last week.
The second statement is nothing but spin, so nothing to see here. And the spokesmen didn't have much to say when confronted with previous non-theoretically-storage-related actions.
When asked about the YouTube deletions and why it was necessary to remove webpages from the Internet Archive, a spokesperson for the Conservatives declined to comment.What this looks like is a swift rewrite of history ahead of the general election. ComputerWeekly, which broke the news of the first Conservative history cull, suggested the party was attempting to bury Cameron's old campaign promises, which revolved around openness and transparency. The Guardian has another theory.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, pointed out that the material is still available on the UK Web Archive, a project run by the British Library to archive British websites.Sadly, it's not just one political party refurbishing its past. The Labour party has been busy as well.
Nonetheless, he said: "The suspicion has to be that at the point they are engaged in a huge debate about mass surveillance … they are removing the videos where they criticise Labour for doing the same thing. That's why it's absolutely important that that material remains available."
Labour has also edited its news archive. The party's new website only goes back to September 2010, leaving Ed Miliband's keynote at the party conference that year the oldest speech available. But unlike the Conservatives, Labour didn't require internet archivists to remove stored versions, leaving pages dating back to July 2002 in the database.Archives for both are still available elsewhere, but the public-facing sites themselves are now willfully incomplete. The digital age may have promised a future of transparency and openness, but both parties have chosen to use these tools to craft flattering narratives and spirit away inconsistencies.