Conservatives erase their internet history

Written by Edward Chester

November 13, 2013 | 13:56

Tags: #erase #internet #politics

Companies: #bit-tech #conservative-party #conservatives #history

Evidence has been uncovered that the UK Conservative party has tried to erase a 10-year back-log of speeches from the internet.

As well as deleting the archive, of speeches and press releases dating back to 2000, from its public-facing website, the party has also removed references to the records from internet search engines, such as Google, as well as the Internet Archive, the public record of the internet.

The news is particularly alarming as it both suggests a move by the party to coverup public information and goes against the party's very own pledge, in the run-up to the country's most recent general election, to create a more transparent kind of politics.

The report comes from Computer Weekly, which discovered that at some point since 5 October 2013 the Tory speech and news archive had been removed from the Internet Archive.

It has since transpired that the Conservatives also posted a robot blocker on their website that told search engines and the Archive that they were no longer permitted to keep a record of the Party's website. As a result the internet Archive has removed all records of speeches and news from its 1,158 snapshots of the archive, taken from the party website since 8 May 1999.

Neither the Conservative party nor the Internet Archive has yet responded to requests for comment on the removal.

Update: A Conservative Party spokesman has said the changes were done to make the website more appealing.

"The changes we've done to the website are judged by what's most popular. People would rather watch videos than read lengthy texts," he said.

"It's definitely not dumbed down. These changes allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide," said the party further in a written statement.

What hasn't yet been revealed is who authorised the removal, with the spokesman saying it had been handled by the party's digital team.

Alexa Internet, the company that crawls the web for the Internet Archive, further added that it "does respect robots.txt instructions, and even does so retroactively. If a web site owner sets up robots.txt on the site, the Alexa crawlers will stop visiting those files and will make unavailable all files previously gathered from that site."
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