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Why we need digital deposit

David Rosenthal describes a change in the text of a speech that Attorney General Holder gave last October touting the governments Distressed Homeowner Initiative. The text of the speech as originally posted has been changed, apparently without notification or explanation.

  • Winston Smith Lives! by David Rosenthal, DSHR’s Blog (August 13, 2013).

    As usual, the re-writing was caught because there was at least one copy, this time in the Wayback Machine, outside the government’s control. In the good old days of the paper Federal Depository Library Program, there were copies of government documents in libraries all across the nation. That’s the model the LOCKSS program is trying to re-create with the “USDocs” Private LOCKSS Network. Only by having multiple copies under separate administration can we recover from, as opposed to merely detect, tampering with the historical record.

the USDocs Private LOCKSS Network is as close as we have to an FDLP system of digital deposit. We need to go further and make digital deposit the norm so that libraries can serve their own, live version of government information. Doing so would not just expose tampering, but would discourage tampering.

(BTW, in case you forgot, “Winston Smith” is the character in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four whose job as a clerk in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth is to rewrite historical documents.)

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Jim (and David Rosenthal) for the reminder about why collecting govt information is so important, *especially* digital content that is so easily changed/edited/deleted. Why it was just a few weeks ago that another federal agency, this time the NSA, scrubbed its site of a surveillance fact sheet after the Edward Snowden revelations came out that the NSA doesn’t actually follow its own regulations (or the US Constitution for that matter) in spying on US citizens and the world.

    With that in mind, I’d like to again remind our readers that it’s quick, easy and cheap (FREE if your library is already a LOCKSS alliance member!) to join the other 37 libraries already collecting and preserving FDsys collections for the LOCKSS-USDOCS network. All you have to do is whistle … er I mean email me at jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu.

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