On Editing and “The Historical Record”

Today I got a request from a former listmember, who asked me to remove some posts of his from the archive, as he felt they were possibly going to reflect negatively on him should someone go searching for them.

I had to think about this for a minute. On one hand, there’s no point in making sure that something someone said in 1997 is available to keep embarassing them permanently (especially since there were indeed certain unfortunate implications in the posting). On the other hand, history never goes away on the Internet. archive,org’s got a copy; the search engine caches have a copy (for a while anyway); and of course, anyone who’s mirrored the older version of the file has a copy.

I decided, in this case, to redact the name and email address of the user in question, not because I think censorship is good, but because the gist of what he said is still there, and can still be found if you’re searching for that content, but it’s not specifically linked to a person.

I’ve done an edit once before, when someone asked me to remove their mailing address from the archives in an attempt to cut down spam to their (still-active) address.

I think this is a good point to line out what I will and won’t do as far as edits: I will remove your name if your post implies that you might have engaged in something illegal, but not if you simply wish you hadn’t said what you said. This is going to be a judgement call on my part; I’ll do my best to keep everyone happy, in the ongoing spirit of how we did things on EMUSIC-L, but keeping the archive a legitimate archive is going to be my guiding principle.

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