Management Assistance Program

Locate Deleted Web Pages (and get them admitted into evidence) with the Wayback Machine (July 1, 2020)

The Internet Archive (https://archive.org/) is a massive storehouse of information. It bills itself as “a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites and more.” If you haven’t spent some time on the site, you may be surprised at what is available there.

Many lawyers are familiar with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the site that preserves the history of web pages (448 billion Web pages!). So, if someone has deleted something from a web page that impacts a client matter, your first research stop is the Wayback Machine to view the history of the web page and see a copy of the older version of the site is available. The Machine scans pages on an irregular basis, so luck is involved. But if the information was posted for a lengthy time, your odds are good.

Now that the evidence is located, what next? The Internet Archive has received so many requests for authentication from its records that it has developed a process for requesting information. The process begins with some free legal advice:

“Before asking the Internet Archive to authenticate your documents, we ask that you please seek judicial notice or simply ask your opposing party to stipulate to the documents’ authenticity. Of course, the best source of such information is the party who posted the information on the URLs at issue, and the second-best source of such information is someone who actually accessed the historical versions of the URLs.

“However, if you are determined to obtain an affidavit authenticating printouts from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we will do our best to help you in accordance with this policy.”

The process and the fees charged are outlined at https://archive.org/legal/.

Trivia Question: Do you know what old cartoon series contained the inspiration for the name of the Wayback Machine? Answer here