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Saving the Documents of the Tunisian Revolution

April 15th, 2011 04:00 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

bab1.jpgWhen Tunisian strongman Ben Ali was chased out of power last January, after a month’s escalating protests, his documents begun to disappear. It was not all nefarious goings-on. In many of the situations, the simple fact that old government and personal sites weren’t being kept up meant the documents they held disappeared in the blink of an eye. Brian Whitaker is taking steps to preserve them.

Whitaker’s site Al-Bab (the door or gate in Arabic), was an important source of information during the revolution and during further expressions of the widespread Jasmine Revolutions. He discovered that he couldn’t access some important documents and began gathering them together via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

tunisia_flag_jan19.jpgHere’s Whitaker’s statement.

“Following the revolution in Tunisia, I have begun updating the Tunisia section here on al-bab. Links to several historically interesting documents had stopped working because of the deletion of websites belonging to the old regime. I have retrieved some of them through the Wayback archive and posted them directly on to the site. They include Ben Ali’s speech in 1987 when he deposed President Bourguiba, and his ludicrous victory speech in 1999 when he was re-elected with an incredible 99.44% of the vote.”

The disappearance of digital information from attrition or when a user dies has already been recognized as an issue we are going to have to deal with. The death of a regime poses similar problems.

The French entrepreneur and digital activist (and former ReadWriteWeb France editor) Fabrice Epelboin and I, along with a number of others, published an open letter to Facebook, asking them to preserve the information created on their service during the uprising. Our idea was for the information to be archived and people who created it could elect to allow others to view it, thereby securing a crucial moment of communication in a political change of great importance.

It’s an issue that our global society is going to have to address better than it is now with ad hoc lunges at preservation, or else we won’t lose bits and bytes, we’ll lose our history.

Source: Saving the Documents of the Tunisian Revolution

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