Many of us, at one point or another, have deleted something of ours from the internet. Before coming to college, I went through my Facebook profile to delete anything really embarrassing. For my job at an online media company, I’ve had to delete plenty of incorrect posts that I mistakenly made.
The internet operates in a world that is constantly being edited, and if it weren’t for the Wayback Machine, these edits would happen in a vacuum, never to be recognized or tracked. Sometimes, what’s been deleted can be more informative than what was kept, and the Wayback Machine lets us be privy to the erased.
Recently, the world was rocked by NBC Today’s announcement that Matt Lauer, one of their lead anchors, after reports of sexual harassment. The termination was abrupt; he was on air one day and gone the next. NBC had to make quick changes, which did not go unnoticed as they had probably hoped.
According to a Fox News article by Gregg Re on December 1, “NBC scrubbed all promotional images of Matt Lauer from its “Today” show social media pages Wednesday, as the network continues to distance itself from the disgraced former anchor.”
Re also points out that the old imagery is “still accessible via Internet aggregator Wayback Machine” and goes on to describe the pictures that were erased. The screenshots of the Today Show’s webpage and twitter from November 29 and 30 are below.
Despite being inextricably tied to Matt Lauer, even more so after the allegations surfaced, the Today Show is trying to distance themselves from their former employee, even if it meant compromising their social media aesthetic. Their home page now seems less personable without having images of their anchors. The photo that replaced the heartwarming and engaging picture of Lauer and Savannah Guthrie is not as captivating, and even appears blurry and low-quality.
The Internet Archive stipulates on their website that sites can request to have pages excluded from the database. For some reason, though, the Today Show doesn’t seem to have done this. One possible reason could be that it would be too difficult; all of the show’s internet history would have to be deleted since Lauer’s pictures probably appear everywhere. The Today Show also may not care about erasing their past with Lauer, and instead are just focusing on erasing him from the future of the show. Videos of Lauer on the show are still available. This brings up the question of what is worth deleting, especially if it will be preserved by the Wayback Machine anyways. The Today Show may be against deleting all of their history with Lauer out of either convenience or sentiment. They may not want to delete all of their website’s past from the Wayback Machine, or they may not want to suggest that Lauer was never a part of the team.
Unlike the Today Show, Lauer has was not opposed to deleting himself entirely; he deleted his Twitter whole account. However, this too is still available on the Wayback Machine. The last screenshot of his account was taken on November 29, which was first time the URL had been archived since September. This is probably because Lauer’s account wasn’t very active; his last tweet was from September 1.
Lauer’s motivation to delete his account was unclear to me. It doesn’t seem likely that there would be anything incriminating on the account, and if there was, he would probably have it removed from the Wayback Machine, which he hasn’t done. Perhaps he had nothing left to say in 280 characters, or perhaps he felt that he didn’t deserve the 629k following he held.
The Wayback Machine provides a powerful way for us to understand current events by revealing the purposeful edits that individuals and huge companies make. It is a tool that can help us shed light on what is happening by observing what is gone.