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'Webscrubbing' on government websites

28 June, 2007
By Allison Orr

Highlighting an activity that seems to turn the Utopian vision of the Information age on its head, Kelly Tranter writes in New Matilda that governments are using websites to re-write history.  In what is becoming known as "webscrubbing", content that is embarrassing or inconvenient is selectively and retrospectively removed from websites.

After providing several examples of webscrubbing in the US, Trantor states that it is "well entrenched in Australia".  In one example, questions regarding David Hicks’ incarceration at Guantanamo Bay on the Attorney-General’s website were removed following the US Supreme Court ruling in June 2006 that the Military Commissions were illegal.  However, showing how difficult it can be for information to ever disappear online, the content had already been posted to the Fair Go for David site. 

In order to counter this problem, Trantor suggests a central repository to record and store a permanent record of all government web postings should be set up.

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