Since the onset of the pandemic, the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard Kennedy's Shorenstein Center, where I am the director, has been investigating how misinformation, scams, and conspiracies about covid-19 circulate online. If fraudsters are now using the virus to dupe unsuspecting individuals, we thought, then our research on misinformation should focus on understanding the new tactics of these media manipulators. What we found was a disconcerting explosion in "zombie content." In April, Amelia Acker, assistant professor of information studies at UT Austin, brought our attention to a popular link containing conspiratorial propaganda suggesting that China is hiding important information about covid-19. The original post was from a generic-looking site called News NT, alleging that 21 million people had died from covid-19 in China.
You know that thing where you're reading something interesting but then you see a super interesting link and you're like, yeah, I'm gonna click the shit out of this, and then you do, and your computer fritzes, blinks at you, and then you get a 404 error? Internet Archive has built a tool to make that stop happening. Internet Archive has long chronicled deceased web pages with the Wayback Machine, allowing users to access stuff that is no longer readily available. But, of course, users would have to know about the Wayback Machine and how to use it. Now Internet Archive has built a Wayback Machine Chrome extension.
It can be hard to find sites that have disappeared from the Internet. But the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is on the verge of rolling out a feature that will make tracking down dead websites much easier, according to Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. The Wayback Machine has been helping people see past Internet sites over the past 15 years, but searchers always needed to know the URL of a website to find the archived copies. Soon, however, you'll be able to use keyword searches to find old websites -- in fact, you can already test it out through a public beta. The new search feature is not quite like Google, where all the text on each page on a website is indexed to help with searches.
The saying goes, "the internet is forever." Now, the Wayback Machine and Cloudflare are doing their part to strengthen that adage. The two are joining forces to ensure more web pages are archived, according to a post on the Internet Archive blog. The Wayback Machine, a project of Internet Archive, allows you to view web pages as they appeared on certain past dates. The partnership with Cloudflare means Internet Archive has another source for URLs -- websites that use Cloudflare's Always Online service.
Cloudflare and Internet Archive have joined forces to archive more of the public web, touting it would make the web more reliable. As part of this joint effort, websites that use Cloudflare's Always Online service will be able to allow the web infrastructure company to share their hostname and URLs with Internet Archive's Wayback Machine so their website can be automatically archived. When a site is down, Cloudflare will then be able to retrieve the most recently archived version from Internet Archive so that a site's content can be accessed by users. "The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has an impressive infrastructure that can archive the web at scale," Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince said. "By working together, we can take another step toward making the internet more resilient by stopping server issues for our customers and in turn from interrupting businesses and users online." According to Internet Archive, more than 468 billion web pages are available via the Wayback Machine to date.