Another Orwellian phenomenon surrounding the “birther” controversy was recently discovered: “JustiaGate,” in which 25 Supreme Court decisions that cited to the same case that defined “natural born” citizen were altered on Justia.com’s public database sometime mid-2008. The changes consisted of deleted references to the case name (Minor v. Happersett), “mangled” numerical citations, and other instances of missing text. Within days of the Portland Examiner’s publishing of attorney Leo Donofrio’s findings, Justia removed Wayback Internet Archives access, making it difficult to ascertain the plausibility of Justia owner Tim Stanley’s explanation to CNET.
Now, you can’t “blame” Google for that obfuscating distortion of fact, but Google has recently made the use of their incredibly vast Internet news database substantially less convenient and not nearly as useful as it once was. For instance, here are a few comments that I saved from the Google Labs site regarding the shutting down of their Google News Timeline application:
Google News Timeline
Last updated August 17, 2011
As part of the phasing out of Google Labs, we have shut down Google News Timeline. It was a pleasure to serve you!
Google News Timeline is a web application that organizes information chronologically. It allows users to view news and other data sources on a zoomable, graphical timeline. You can navigate through time by dragging the timeline, setting the “granularity” to weeks, months, years, or decades, or just including a time period in your query (ie. “1977”).
Available data sources include recent and historical news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts and Twitter status messages, sports scores and various types of media like music albums and movies.
6 days ago
Nooo… Google giveth, and Google taketh away. =^(
Aug 20, 2011
This was a superb tool and it’s a major disappointment to see it closed down. Is the historic news data still there somewhere or has Googre abandoned that also ? Can I search it in some other way ?
Seems such a bad move to close it.
Aug 20, 2011
What a stupid idea to shut-down google labs, and what a even stupider idea to remove this application. My very high opinion of Google is sliding all to quickly.
Aug 19, 2011
As a news researcher I have depended upon Google Timeline extensively. I have found it to be extremely useful and easy to navigate. I have uncovered many, many historical facts with it. I am at a loss to understand why it is being shut down. I will miss it very much, and I don’t know what I will do now to replace it.
Precisely my sentiment as it was only because of Google News Timeline that I happen to come across the Associated Press article in the Deseret News regarding the thousands of foreign scientists visiting our nuclear weapons labs during the Reagan Administration. (See this.)
More recently, I’ve noticed that Google has also done away with their News Archive search function. Though one can still specify a date range for a search, the sort-by-date and source-specification options are no longer available. This makes it impossible to check a specified source within a range of dates ordered by date. You can see this for yourself by looking at the options available on the Advanced Search template page. Lots of boxes are available for filling, but not much that’s really helpful for doing historical news research.
Now we won’t even be able to recover what did go down the memory hole, including why Google made these changes after having these functions available for so many years.
Wonder what else they don’t want us to remember? Quite a lot, probably.