Boing Boing

MSNBC's Joy Reid says anti-gay posts on her old blog were 'fabricated', Internet Archive responds

MSNBC news host Joy Reid has been the focus of controversy this week over her old blog, and her assertion that someone may have manipulated the Wayback Machine's archive of that content to make her look bad.

On Monday, Mediaite published a series of newly discovered “homophobic posts from Joy Ann Reid’s old blog that she denies were actually written by her.”

Reid denied they were. Reid's lawyers also came for the Wayback Machine, and it's really quite a weird story that I can't figure out.


This isn't the first time, either.

Says Wayback's Chris Butler today, “Some recent press stories (1, 2) have discussed archived blog posts of a prominent journalist, Joy Ann Reid, in the Wayback Machine and her claims that some of these posts were “manipulated” by an “unknown, external party.”

More from archive.org's response about 'manipulated' Wayback Machine archive claims from Reid's attorneys:

This past December, Reid’s lawyers contacted us, asking to have archives of the blog (blog.reidreport.com) taken down, stating that “fraudulent” posts were “inserted into legitimate content” in our archives of the blog. Her attorneys stated that they didn’t know if the alleged insertion happened on the original site or with our archives (Reid’s claim regarding the point of manipulation is still unclear to us).

When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions. At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities.

We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation. Consequently, and due to Reid’s being a journalist (a very high-profile one, at that) and the journalistic nature of the blog archives, we declined to take down the archives. We were clear that we would welcome and consider any further information that they could provide us to support their claims.

At some point after our correspondence, a robots.txt exclusion request specific to the Wayback Machine was placed on the live blog. That request was automatically recognized and processed by the Wayback Machine and the blog archives were excluded, unbeknownst to us (the process is fully automated). The robots.txt exclusion from the web archive remains automatically in effect due to the presence of request on the live blog. Also, the blog URL which previously pointed to an msnbc.com page now points to a generic parked page.

From The Intercept:

REGARDLESS OF ONE’S VIEWS on Reid’s past anti-gay remarks, and regardless of what actually happened here, this is a serious news story — obviously so. And the biggest part of the story is not whether Reid wrote this anti-gay content. Again, if she did, and she acknowledged and apologized for it, that should not be held against her.

The biggest part of the story is the veracity of her remarkable claim — that she’s making not 10 years ago but now — that it was hackers who wrote the offensive material under her name.

Only one of two things can be true here, and they are both rather consequential: Either (a) hackers found a way to effectively alter the digital archives of the Wayback Machine in order to smear the name of a major TV news personality by attributing fabricated content to her, or (b) this major TV news personality is lying — not 10 years ago, but today — in order to falsely deny authorship of her own journalism.

Given the important issues at stake that liberal media outlets have vocally elevated as crucial — LGBT equality, combating bigotry, the security and reliability of online information, the dangers posed by hacking, journalistic integrity — one would think that they would be quite interested in this story and the critical questions it raises. But one would be quite wrong in assuming this.


[Image: Joy Ann Reid, image courtesy msnbc.com]