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Tech Tuesday newsletter: The monumental task of archiving the Trump internet

Here is a look at tech and politics news from the last week.

Jan 19, 2021, 12:11 pm

Tech

 

Andrew Wyrich

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Trump's presidency will come to an end tomorrow, so how are researchers preparing to archive and study all of what has happened over the past four years?

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Here's what we've got on deck today:

  • The monumental task of archiving the Trump internet
  • The Senate Republicans’ gambit to deadlock the FCC failed
  • The Trump Disinformation Project

Donald Trump at microphone with deranged face, with other photos of him in the background facing different directions
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BREAK THE INTERNET

The monumental task of archiving the Trump internet

It’s clear that the past four years have been an inflection point in American history, and President Donald Trump will be studied extensively. Yet, this is the president whose historical record is most at risk of disappearing.

Partly due to coincidental timing with how technology is evolving regardless of who’s in the White House, and partly due to fans who bragged about memeing their way to the presidency, the most crucial materials of this historical record are online and easily lost.

In order to understand the Trump presidency, one must understand Twitter fights and Twitter bots; fake news and deep fakes; 4chan and the #resistance; and Pepe the Frog and "Pantsuit Nation." But these records, if they exist at all, are ephemeral, fragile, and unwieldy. The average lifespan of a website is not very long, and social media content is even more fleeting and often private.

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It would be impossible to archive everything, so judgment calls need to be made for what gets saved by a nation that can’t even come to a consensus on basic truths. And so, very quietly, groups of government organizations, nonprofits, and independent archivists have been taking on the Sisyphean task of recording the collective American experience of the past four years so historians can study genuine artifacts unfiltered by opinion or agenda.

If you want to read more about how researchers are preparing to archive the very-online nature of Trump's time in power, check out the rest of the story tomorrow on the Daily Dot.

—Celeste Kaufman, contributing writer


Illustration of people wearing masks, spraying disinfectant, and a doctor holding a vaccine for COVID-19.
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SPONSORED

Now that several vaccines are in distribution, it may seem like we can finally start to take off our masks and get back to normal. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it's actually more crucial than ever that we wear them after we get vaccinated (and that the ones we wear protect us properly). We'll explain the reasons why and break it down for you.

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Joe Biden and FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington.
Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA) commerce.senate.gov
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OVERLORDS

The Senate Republicans’ gambit to deadlock the FCC failed

As the days continue to tick down until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, he has been naming people to dozens of positions within the government.

But shortly after the election, it appeared that Republicans in the Senate hoped to gum up one agency and potentially block Biden from filling it out: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In early December, the Senate rammed through the nomination of Nathan Simington, a person handpicked by President Donald Trump to serve on the FCC whose selection was fraught with controversy because of his connection to the president's much-criticized social media executive order that targeted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

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Since he was eventually confirmed, Simington currently leaves the agency in a 2-2 deadlock down party lines with Chairman Ajit Pai stepping down tomorrow. The goal of getting Simington onto the FCC quickly seemed to be so that Senate Republicans would be able to hold off or slow down any pick Biden made to fill out the five person agency by keeping it in a 2-2 deadlock.

If Republicans were able to hold onto the majority in the Senate—where FCC commissioners need to be confirmed—after the Georgia runoff elections, they would have been able to keep the agency deadlocked, thus holding off off any votes that would go down party lines.

But that gambit hit a crushing roadblock when Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were able to defeat Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) earlier this month.

Here's why it matters: Those losses gave Democrats a thin majority in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote, making any Biden FCC pick much more likely to make it through Congress' upper chamber

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Democratic control of the Senate could also give Biden, who has yet to announce who he will name as the chair of the agency or who he'd want to fill the final open spot, more latitude on who he might choose to fill out the FCC.

—Andrew Wyrich, deputy tech editor


Daily Dot (Licensed)

MISINFORMATION

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The Trump Disinformation Project

Last week, the Daily Dot published the Trump Disinformation Project, nine different stories from the past four years that expose shocking misinformation efforts. How did the Gateway Pundit analyze and process all of Hunter Biden’s laptop in a week? How could QAnon go from an obscure message board to charging the Capitol? How could one of the president’s sons convince millions an election was stolen? And what happens next?

—Daily Dot staff


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BEHIND THE SEAMS

This week on Behind the Seams, we look into the phenomenon of the Disney Princess Dress: an outfit that combines 1950s silhouettes with elements of 18th and 19th-century European ball gowns. We delve into the historical influences of movies like Snow White and The Princess and the Frog, along with insight into how Disney transformed cartoon princesses into a cohesive, Avengers-style lineup.

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BTW

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*First Published: Jan 19, 2021, 12:11 pm