Critically Endangered small

Digital content where the knowledge to preserve exists and there is no threat to obsolescence, but where political interests may be served by elimination, falsification or concealment.

Group: Political Data

Trend: No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2018

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


EG: Online News; Social media and web-based campaigning; Social media relating to 2016 UK/EU referendum; Promises made in Scottish independence referendum 2014; US Environmental Data; UK Public Finance Initiative (PFI) documents; Recordings of Leinster House; Politwoops; DeletedbyMPs;

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Opaque terms and conditions that facilitate deletion or obfuscation; lack of access to web-harvesting; significant lobby interest; change of administration; data resides in single jurisdiction;

reputational risk to collecting institution

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Robust political archives; robust preservation services for investigative journalists

2019 Review

The nature and extent of political campaigning online continues to become more apparent.  This has drawn attention to the manipulation of digital media but not explicitly the issue of deliberate deletion, alteration or concealment. GDPR provides a pretext for the disposal of records. The increased capability of archives to secure the content from outgoing governments and ministers is a source of encouragement, such as in Canada accusations that the incoming Liberal government had wiped the memory of the outgoing Conservative government were shown to be unfounded.  Nonetheless there is a pressing need for a deep and comprehensive assessment of the risks faced by politically sensitive data and the impact which such deletions have on the public good. That another year should have passed without such an assessment is a matter of grave concern, suggesting that the trend is towards significantly greater risk

Additional Jury Comments

Maybe it is not the duty of archives or libraries to preserve the falsification but to preserve the constituent pieces to allow researchers to infer elimination, falsification or concealment. Web harversting orgs will pick up web and possibly some social media. Will others pick up the rest?  Risk is high because some of the data will be in difficult to reach platforms. Some inevitable loss.

Is there a technological path to capturing and protecting this information before deletion or manipulation? This could well be the basis for crowd funding and/ or crowd implementation.

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