June 19, 2021

Report: Study Reveals Misuse of Archive Services by Fringe Communities on the Web

From the University of Alabama at Birmingham:

In a large-scale analysis, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Cyprus University of Technology and University College London reveal fringe communities within Reddit and 4chan push the use of URLs from archive services to avoid censorship and undercut advertising revenue of news sources with contrasting ideologies.

Web archiving services play an increasingly important role in today’s information ecosystem by preserving online content,” said Jeremy Blackburn, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “News and social media posts have been found to be the most common types of content archived. URLs of archiving services are extensively shared on ‘fringe’ communities within Reddit and 4chan to preserve possibly contentious content.”

Researchers analyzed millions of URLs from archive.is and Wayback Machine shared on four social networks: Reddit, Twitter, Gab and 4chan’s politically incorrect board (/pol/). The results of the study were published this week in a paper at the 12th International Conference on Web and Social Media in Stanford, California.

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“These findings highlight the importance of archiving services in the web’s information and ad ecosystems, the need to carefully consider them when studying social media and when designing systems to detect and contain the cascade of misinformation on the web,” Blackburn said.

Read the Complete Summary

Direct to Conference Paper: Understanding Web Archiving Services and Their (Mis)Use on Social Media (via arXiv)

Abstract

Web archiving services play an increasingly important role in today’s information ecosystem, by ensuring the continuing availability of information, or by deliberately caching content that might get deleted or removed. Among these, the Wayback Machine has been proactively archiving, since 2001, versions of a large number of Web pages, while newer services like archive.is allow users to create on-demand snapshots of specific Web pages, which serve as time capsules that can be shared across the Web. In this paper, we present a large-scale analysis of Web archiving services and their use on social media, shedding light on the actors involved in this ecosystem, the content that gets archived, and how it is shared.

We crawl and study: 1) 21M URLs from archive.is, spanning almost two years; and 2) 356K archive.is plus 391K Wayback Machine URLs that were shared on four social networks: Reddit, Twitter, Gab, and 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) over 14 months. We observe that news and social media posts are the most common types of content archived, likely due to their perceived ephemeral and/or controversial nature. Moreover, URLs of archiving services are extensively shared on “fringe” communities within Reddit and 4chan to preserve possibly contentious content. Lastly, we find evidence of moderators nudging or even forcing users to use archives, instead of direct links, for news sources with opposing ideologies, potentially depriving them of ad revenue.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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