Archives and Manuscripts Blog 3, Digital Archives and Control

White supremacy in this country and abroad has been of increasing concern in the past few years and it seems few areas are safe from the encroaching threat. While these groups and individuals using the internet to radicalize and recruit is not surprising, some of the methods that they’ve gone about it are. As part of a larger attempt at legitimacy that has involved imitating academic style and citation, online public archives have also become a haven for their ideas. I first learned this because of my recurring research interest around Leo Frank. Individuals using pseudonyms (a frequent one being Sarah Cohen) have used archive.org to upload documents publicly available in other archives to the archive.org website such as books, Leo Frank’s passport, and any media related to the case. In doing so they are able to then shape the narrative by publishing long antisemitic essays in the section below whatever document or even video they upload.

At least this was the case until recently. Since the last time I was researching the topic in April 2019 and now the various documents have been taken down for terms of service violations. There has been no explanation beyond that but it does reflect a similar issue when white supremacists had bought up the domain names related to the case and used them to publish propaganda. After articles in The Forward and the Washington Post were published Google, who had previously had these among the first results when you googled “Leo Frank” moved them further down. Perhaps archive.org is attempting a stronger political stand, or perhaps those who hold the copyrights to these materials were alerted and put in claims to the site. Whatever it is, it is a step in the right direction.

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