News media should be able to rehost source material

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On the web, what is published can be removed from publication at its source, for example this YouTube video of JFK's assassination. It was a gory video, and therefore someone reported it to YouTube as unnecessarily violent. YouTube deemed the video to be in violation of YouTube's policies regarding violence, and the video was subsequently pulled from YouTube.

It did not disappear from the Internet, though. The video was copied to, where it still exists. However, only people who know of that mirror will be able to see it, as YouTube removed the linked video's comments when the video was removed.

If a publication embedded the video in the story straight from YouTube like I did, expecting the video to remain up, then their story and reputation might be adversely affected when YouTube pulled the video. Readers would be missing a key part of the story.

In order to provide the best quality of service for readers, news media and reporters should be prepared to have backups of their source material. In the case of the YouTube embed in my story, I could point readers to the Rmirror copy, but that's not always the case.

After the YouTube version disappeared, I downloaded the video from Rmirror as a backup. It was as easy as wget Should Rmirror's version go down, I can put my backup version online for readers to use.

I am not advocating that news organizations only use rehosted content, though. Credit should always go to the original poster, and this is most easily done by linking to or embedding the original material: the YouTube video in this case.

But if the original content disappears, reporters should always be prepared to present a backup copy:

  • screenshots of web pages
  • copies of images
  • copies of videos
  • physical of digital copies of documents
  • photographs of things or events

If you have no proof that the news happened, did it happen at all?

July 9, 2013: has disappeared, along with the mirrored copy of the video. This drives home my point about the necessity of keeping your own copies of content.