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Should You Ever Make Things Disappear?

Monday, 7 Jul 2008 | 12:58 PM ET

Should you ever pull down posted material from a Web site?

It's a big debate at BoingBoing, a popular blog, according to The New York Times. Apparently a blogger there "unpublished" a bunch of posts about Violet Blue, a sex columnist and blogger. The readers of BoingBoing apparently don't approve.

This touches on an ongoing issue in Internet journalism ... pulling things down. Our technology lets us do that, if we desire. But the parameters of journalism argue against it. Once it's reported, it's reported. Could you "pull down" a newspaper article? Or a live interview on TV?

We get requests to pull down items from time to time. More often than not it is from a fellow journalist, which I find a little worrisome. And usually the request has more to do with vanity than substance ... like an awkward or unflattering interview. Sometimes it involves a mistake or stupidity, though.

You can understand the desire to make such things disappear. But that would be unfair to anyone who saw or read the piece earlier. You have to do something to signal the material wasn't right originally -- otherwise you weren't being straight up with your audience. Better to run a correction and take your lumps than engage in an Orwellian now-you-see-it-now-you-don't practice.

There might be exceptions ... something causing immediate harm to a person or company, for example. But it'd be a pretty extreme situation, I'd imagine.

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