Joy Reid and the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive Trashes Joy Reid’s Dubious Claim That Hackers Made Her Look Homophobic

While the particulars of this story are convoluted and somewhat baffling, the basics are this: Joy Reid is a host on MSNBC. A decade ago, she was a morning talk show host in south Florida with a political blog called The Reid Report. Over the course of the now-defunct blog’s history, Reid wrote numerous articles filled with homophobic slurs aimed at Florida politicians such as former governor Charlie Crist. In November 2017, a Twitter user brought these hateful and derogatory posts to light, utilizing the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine as proof. Days later, Reid apologized for what she called “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb” posts. She apologized to Crist, who accepted her apology, and defended herself as not homophobic.

However, this past Monday (April 23rd) the same Twitter user posted even more examples of Reid’s homophobic blog posts. More than (admittedly hateful) name calling of politicians on a political blog, these new posts: defended former NBA star Tim Hardaway for saying he hates “gay people”; speculated about which celebrities might be closeted homosexuals; endorsed the old and insidious stereotype that gay men are predators and pedophiles; and posed the question “if you could manipulate the genes of your unborn child to assure that he or she would not be gay, would you?”.

In contrast to last November, however, Reid now claims that an “unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog,” fabricating “offensive and hateful references” in an “an effort to taint my character with false information.” It’s unclear why Reid would now categorically denies writing any of the same kind of material she already apologized (and received forgiveness for) back in November.

However, what makes this a story with a valuable connection to knowledge organization is how it highlights the importance of metadata and how material from the internet is saved and documented. To that end, the Internet Archive wrote a blog post refuting Joy Reid’s claims. After reviewing their archives, they “found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions” of Reid’s blog posts. In fact, they stated that the examples of “allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us [by Reid] had been archived at different dates and by different entities.”

Who knows how this bizarre, confusing situation will play out. However, it’s encouraging to see how digital preservation and archiving, done properly, can be used to hold people to account for such actions.

Theo Walther, LIS 653-02

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Posted in Archives, Preservation

by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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