Thursday, May 13, 2021

The legal value of the Wayback Machine versus screenshots.

OK, kids, let me give you some helpful advice in case you ever need to prove that someone once posted something, or perhaps to prove that someone once changed something they posted. Screenshots are useful, sure, but there's always the question as to whether they've been altered or maybe fabricated entirely, which is why, if it's important, do not screenshot; rather, make an official archive of the page at the publicly-accessible "Internet Archive" (colloquially referred to as the "Wayback Machine").

Here's how it works. Let's say you wanted to make sure you had an unalterable and legally undeniable copy of this tweet from Rebel News goober Adam Soos:

Sure, a screenshot is moderately useful, but if you want ironclad verification, you need to visit the Internet Archive here, where you can do one of two things:

  • check on the history of a particular URL, or
  • make an official archive of that URL.

Let's see how this works.

First, you pop over to the URL search section of the Internet Archive, where you see the generic main page and, at the top:

To make (or verify) an archive of that tweet whose URL is "", simply copy and paste that URL into the search window, press ENTER and ... well, hello there:

What the above shows is that someone (or something, perhaps a crawler, but it doesn't matter) has already made two official archives of that page, so pick, say, the earlier May 10, 2021 link to see the contents of that URL at the time it was archived:

Cool, no? And if there was no archive yet, you can simply ask to make one. So what's the point?

The point is that, given the history of a URL as stored at the Wayback Machine, you can have indisputable evidence of what someone posted, and when they posted it, and so on. And lest you think that lawyers have not already glommed onto this, let me suggest some reading:

And there you have it. Don't say I never did you any favours.

BONUS TRACK: There's another delightful value to the Wayback Machine, if you're after content that's already been deleted, and here's an example.

Recall, if you will, that the website "Rebel News" used to be called "Rebel Media," and was available at the domain name "" Well, that latter name no longer has any useful content as, if you visit there, this is all you see:

So all that potentially legally useful information is gone. Or is it? Not if you hie thee over to the Wayback Machine and type in the URL "", whereupon you get all this delicious history for perusal:

like checking to see what was happening as far back as February of 2015:

Yeah, you can have some fun with this ... take my word for it.

1 comment:

Uncle said...

We need to soo Adam back to the stone age