Donald Trump scares Internet Archive into moving to Canada

An internet archive wants to create a second location in Canada for storing its collection of webpages.
An internet archive wants to create a second location in Canada for storing its collection of webpages. McClatchy

The internet was created in America. But is it safe in America? Some people don’t think so.

A nonprofit group based in San Francisco has decided to “Trump-proof” its massive open-for-all internet library by storing it in Canada as well as the United States.

The group, the Internet Archive, which claims to save some 300 million webpages every week, said in a blog post that storing a copy of its vast digital assets in another country is a step toward “preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.”

It did not mention President-elect Donald Trump by name but noted that government surveillance and “terrible violations of privacy” have brought down libraries in the past.

“On Nov. 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change,” says the blog post by the group’s founder, Brewster Kahle.

Installing an off-site backup for data is a common strategy for companies, but this appears to be the first time that a major internet virtual utility has migrated assets out of the United States for fear of perceived domestic risk.

Trump questioned unlimited internet access during his campaign, suggesting a year ago that Muslims in the United States were self-radicalizing on the internet and that certain areas of the web should be shut down.

“Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people,” Trump said at a speech at the USS Yorktown in South Carolina on Dec. 7, 2015.

At a debate later in the month, Trump said censorship might be necessary in times of war.

“I would certainly be open to closing areas (of the internet) when we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet,” Trump said.

The archive includes an area that stores political advertisements that appear on television, helping to fact-check claims by all parties. It also has a so-called Wayback Machine, which stores cached pages that have appeared on the World Wide Web since 1996.

Periodically, the Internet Archive visits webpages to capture new versions and store them, ensuring that content is not lost should the website change or shut down.

In his blog post, Kahle, an MIT-trained engineer, said building a site in Canada and migrating all stored data there would cost millions and appealed to supporters for donations.

He invoked the Library of Alexandria as an example of the potential loss of irreplaceable written material. That ancient library in Egypt survived hundreds of years as a major center of scholarship and sanctuary of written papyrus scrolls but was destroyed in one or more fires following the Roman conquest of Egypt nearly two millennia ago.

Supporters of the archive quickly tweeted their backing for the move, even thanking Canada for providing a sanctuary for the digital documentation.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4