Table of Contents

Memory Hole

Sometimes, things on the web just “disappear”.

A memory hole is any mechanism for the deliberate alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts or other records, such as from a website or other archive, particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened.1) 2) The concept was first popularized by George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the Party's Ministry of Truth systematically re-created all potentially embarrassing historical documents, in effect, re-writing all of history to match the often-changing state propaganda.3)

Examples

As of December 16, 2021, Statistics Canada had removed data on COVID-19 “Provisional death counts and excess mortality, January 2020 to May 2021”, citing “a cyber security vulnerability affecting organizations around the world”.4) The page was nonetheless retrieved via a December 8, 2021 archive.5)

Archives

Several websites have made it difficult to archive their pages.

  • Ontario Health's COVID-19 Test Procedures archived page reads “The request is blocked”.6)
1)
Murphy, K. (2010, June 1). Memorial Day Memory Hole: After Israel Forgets “Exodus”, White House Forgets “Shores of Tripoli”. Will Obama Remember NATO? Shadowproof. https://shadowproof.com/2010/05/31/memorial-day-memory-hole-after-israel-forgets-exodus-white-house-forgets-shores-of-tripoli-will-obama-remember-nato/
3)
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 28). Memory hole. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_hole
4)
We’re sorry! The website is currently unavailable… (2021, December 16). Statistics Canada. https://archive.ph/R5OBQ
5)
The Daily — Provisional death counts and excess mortality, January 2020 - May 2021. (2021, August 9). Wayback Machine; Statistics Canada. https://archive.ph/P2f3y#selection-1381.0-1381.71
6)
Microsoft. (2022, January 1). Ontario Health. https://archive.ph/8tdG1
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