Washington, DC briefing January 22 on new, free website tracking political ads

Political TV Ad Archive

The Internet Archive will be launching a new project — the Political TV Ad Archive — in Washington, DC. See details below, and stay tuned for updates:

Where: National Press Club, Murrow Room, Washington, DC

When: January 22, 2016, 9:00 am – 11:00 am

What: The Internet Archive launches the Political TV Ad Archive, an online, free digital library resource where reporters can find federal-level political TV ads in key primary states in the 2016 elections, married with fact-checking and information on the organizations funding the ads, along with downloadable metadata. Come hear about what Internet Archive and its partners have found so far:

  • When and where have ads aired?
  • Which ads contain the most egregious truth stretching or full-on lies?
  • Which candidates have been the focus of the most ads?
  • Who is paying for the ads, or is that information hidden?

Why: Political TV ad spending is expected to be in the billions. Yet the same local stations that air the ads provide very little solid reporting on politics. Even fewer correct misinformation in the ads. In partnership with trusted journalistic organizations, and with the support of the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the new Political TV Ad Archive will help reporters stop the spin cycle by providing contextual data and information to evaluate ads. The National Press Club Journalism Institute is co-sponsoring this event.

How: The Political TV Ad Archive is monitoring television in 20 key markets in eight states, starting with such locations as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City in Iowa and Boston-Manchester in New England. The project is using experimental audio fingerprint technology to track political TV ads for federal races. On the new website, journalists can find embeddable videos of the ads along with downloadable metadata giving them the scoop on which ads have aired, where, and when. Data will also include information on the sponsor — whether it’s a super PAC, 501(c) group that does not disclose donors, candidate-sponsored ad, or some other entity — as well as the candidates targeted.


Roger Macdonald, Director, Television Archive, Internet Archive

Kathy Kiely, Board of Directors, National Press Club Journalism Institute

John Dunbar, Deputy Executive Editor, Center for Public Integrity

Robert Maguire, Political Nonprofit Investigator, Center for Responsive Politics

Lori Robertson, Managing Editor, FactCheck.org

Louis Jacobson, Senior Correspondent, PolitiFact

Glenn Kessler, Editor, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker

Online video will be available online 24 hours after event. Stay tuned for details and link.

Nancy Watzman, Managing Editor, Television Archive, Internet Archive
Press Contact

Nancy Watzman

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(Educational) Film of the Week: Biography (TV Series, 1961-4)

Educational films and TV programs very often center around great events, artworks, books or historical figures, subscribing to a model of historiography that Matthew Arnold summarized as “the best that has been thought and known in the world.” It is thus not surprising that among the Internet Archive’s collection of educational films includes many examples of biographical portraits of great men (and they are almost always dead white men). Prominent among them was the long-running “Biography” series that ultimately spawned the creation of an entire network of the same name (recently revived as “FYI”)

Multiple episodes of the original run of the TV series from 1961 to 1963 (comprising a total of 65 half-hour shows) have been digitized and from 16mm prints that were circulated among schools and universities after the original airing of the syndicated show.

In contrast with later iterations of this series, the original run focused on deceased, historical figures without the focus on the entertainment industry and celebrity that was prominent later on.

It goes without saying that, in profiling figures like Spanish dictator Francisco Franco or Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the program does not stand up to any scholarly standard of objectivity; in that it is very much a reflection of the cold war sensibilities that produced it. The choice of subjects, too, reflects a bias toward statesmen (including even politicians like Fiorello Laguardia that no longer have the name recognition they once did) and  figures of American history and culture like Mark Twain and Clarence Darrow. However, the episodes do include a variety of rare archival footage that would function as a primary historical document and are still valuable from a pedagogical and scholarly point of view. Another  aspect of the series that remains useful today is the argument it presents about the relationship between an individual life and the course of national and global history.

Films in IA’s educational film collection thus provide a window not only onto history but also the way in which it was recorded, whether in written or audiovisual sources which in turn had a great influence on the way it was taught and learned throughout the twentieth century.

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The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 3

See also Parts 1 and 2.

We dreamed up the idea of an Internet Archive Telethon, and due to the work of employees, volunteers, and performers, we put together an (almost) 24-hour show. We had an amazing time doing it.

But what were the results?


In total, including the 2-1 matching grant we had going on, we raised $131,134 across the 24 hour telethon period. Many donations were $50 or $100, with some lower and a few higher. Watching the funding trends that were in effect from the previous year and this month, there was roughly $30,000 expected to be made if we hadn’t done anything unusual beyond the fundraising banner and the usual contacting of folks to donate. So that means, unscientifically, that the Internet Archive Telethon caused a 400 percent increase in donations, which makes it a wild success!

A shout-out to Doug Kaye of IT Conversations, who donated $10,000 to the event towards the end, as well as Kevin Savetz, who contributed $1,500 in the name of the vintage computing history he and others have been uploading. Limor Fried of Adafruit donated $500, and many, many others contributed other amounts throughout the day and night.

Not only was money raised, but awareness was raised: people were being told about the show and were checking out the Internet Archive for the first time. We got a chance to see everyone excited and happy at the end of the year about this place we work in, and to talk about what brings us there. And the performance acts, all volunteering time and effort, provided us with amazing entertainment and spectacle. It was a resounding success on many other levels as well.

Will it happen again next year? Who knows. What we do know is how incredibly wonderful the experience was, even through all the hard work and intense effort, and how great it is that a mission like the Archive’s can inspire so much.

Thank you so much for being a part of this.

There are so many people to thank for this event. We’ll start with Eddie Codel for livestreaming equipment and Jasmine/Chris/Alex at Support Class for their on-screen reactive graphics – you all made us seem much more professional. On the internal side of Internet Archive employees, June Goldsmith handled administration concerns with the hosting of the event and worked out logistics. The front office (Katherine, Laurel and Michelle) made the calls and the reaching out for security, scheduling and logistics. Michelle invited many of our acts and made logistical arrangements for their media, as well as recruited and organized our team of non-staff volunteers. Wendy Hanamura provided advice, booking, and contacts for multiple acts, as well as being onsite for portions of the event.  A lot of employees and volunteers came onsite to help run the Cortex, including Sam, Davide, Jake, Kevin, Laurel, Trevor, Jackie, Carolyn, and Jeff. Rachel Lovinger was a tireless producer for the majority of the cortex’s existence. Carolyn did the Telethon landing page graphics and web design. Will Fitzgerald provided coding for the banner linkage as well as a major assist to near-realtime automatic updating of telethon fundraising totals. Ralf, Tracey, Tim, Trevor, and Brewster and others helped during the Great Network Confusion of December 2015, getting the entire network infrastructure whipped into shape. And, of course, our many acts, including Conspiracy of Beards, Diva Marisa Lendhart, Craig Baldwin, Andy Isaacson, Chris Gray, Justin Hall, Lauren Taylor, Jeff Kaplan, Odd Salon, Gary Gach, Trevor von Stein, the Balkan Brass Band, Alexis Rossi and Dwalu Khasu, Rick and Megan Prelinger, John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, John Law.

We are no doubt missing many more people who contributed to the Telethon both behind and in front of the camera –  it’s a testimony to how many hands came forward to lift this dream up into reality. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it.

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The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 2

See also Parts 1 and 3.

The Internet Archive Telethon 2015 began at noon on December 19th, and almost immediately we had things go pretty crazy. The co-hosts (Jason Scott and Michelle Krasowski) and the opening staff of the Cortex got used to the timing of the whole thing, while tests and fixes kept happening to get the infrastrucure functioning.

But to get things off to a rousing start, Diva Marisa Lenhardt sang an aria from The Fifth Element and talked about how the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine saved a copy of a site she’d lost due to a disagreement with her hosting provider.

From there, we ran into issues with audio synchronization, to the strangeness of the cameras, and ultimately, a network outage. Due to the efforts of multiple employees coming onsite and online on that Saturday, the network connection returned, stronger than ever, and by 4pm, we had our act together.

Pasted image at 2015_12_21 04_31 PM

So, it turns out that a telethon is a very stressful, very weird, very involved project, and a 24 hour marathon is all of that times 10!

Luckily, the calls and e-mails resulted in some pretty amazing appearances through the day and into the night (and back into the morning). Volunteers have edited together some of the highlights (although there were many more) and they are now available in the Archive’s collections. They include:

A pretty historic segment was Brewster Kahle interviewing John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, co-founders of the EFF and with accomplishments on all sides, doing a combination interview and conversation among the statues.


Internet Archive employees played a huge part in the events and the acts onstage, including Alexis Rossi and Dwalu Khasu singing christmas carols and Jeff Kaplan performing on guitar.


It was a time for interviews and conversations about the nature of the Archive that rarely are heard outside its walls – employees sitting back and chatting about what brought them there, kept their interest, and what inspired them.


Among these were:

Michelle’s late late show ran from Midnight to 8 AM Pacific Standard Time.  Along with hosting engaging interviews, she was inspired to dig deep into the Archive’s collection to feature some of our fascinating oddities, which included the horrors of candy eating, promotion of violence by Santa, and testing of toys in zero gravity:

Michelle also pulled out the 35mm filmstrip projector and slide carousel to bring us back to our days of compulsory education in the dark, and we learned about Cities in Space and The Poetry of Rock.

In the Internet Archive 2015 collection, you can see both edited sequences as well as extended unbroken clips, some of them going for hours, of the Telethon as it happened.

There were moments of great excitement, of improvisation, and of having to just make do with who or what was onstage at that exact second. Though it all, hundreds of viewers weighed in with tweets, suggestions, questions and demands.

So, in basically one day, we generated a couple dozen hours of content and media, a good portion of it unique and amazing and some of it beyond classification.

But how did the Telethon actually do with regards to its goal, to raise awareness and funding for the Archive?

That’s in Part 3.

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The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 1

See also Parts 2 and 3.

The thinking was rather simple: The Internet Archive holds a year-end fundraising drive to encourage donations and recurring donations to provide the great service it does to the world. It does this in recent times through a combination of banner ads and grants, all meant to help cover the annual $12 million budget.

But the Archive is also made up of people, and is a resource for millions not just for web pages and historical documents, but for movies, music, software and a range of other data that have been contributed by institutions and individuals over the years. It also has its headquarters in San Francisco, which has quite a diverse amount of artists, musicians and figures.

So, the logic went, why not do a telethon?


The beginning of the setup – machines in the “cortex” and lighting up the stage.

The word “telethon“, a combination of “television” and “marathon”, is the idea that you do something, whatever it is, broadcast it as widely as possible, and keep doing it while asking for whatever it is you’re asking for.  Traditionally, this has been charity or non-profit organizations or causes. It’s probably most popularly heard when you flip past a public radio station and you hear a couple hosts talking about all the things that the station does across the year.

And the Archive happened to have an advantage for putting on a show that many places might not – a wonderfully inspiring Great Room, which was part of the church the headquarters building used to be, which has hosted a number of fun events in the recent past.


So, starting in the later part of 2015, a group of people started organizing the idea of an Internet Archive Telethon – contacting possible guests, figuring out what would sit where, and what would make sense for a final date.

The in-process photos of what would become “the cortex”, the central video switching and social media tracking, show the range of equipment:


The arrangement of computers, video/audio cables, encoders and switchers across the bench of a pipe organ was eventually cleaned up into something a little easier to understand. One or two people could run the three cameras (although they’d have to move them) and then a large monitor would allow the social media tracking (to answer questions and see what people were saying) as well as driving the on-screen graphics (to show donation totals, list who was talking, and send out “more to come” messages).

In all, it was very complicated, very improvised, and of course we had no idea how well it would work for its very first test, a 24-hour show.


The final setup, with a much cleaner arrangement (less obvious wires!) and a big screen.

In 2014, after a power outage, a 5 hour “test telethon” happened, where we sat in the great room and talked to people over a webcam. It was just a big conversation, talking about why the Archive does what it does, and dozens of people weighed in over the course of the event before we called it a day. It proved several things: We could stream live video for hours from the Archive, we could interact with people online doing it, and we needed some class acts to perform during the show.


We got all of that. We’ll talk about it in Part 2.

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Gingerbread Internet Archive

Anne Regenstein made a gingerbread Internet Archive! Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread Internet Archive

Gingerbread Internet Archive!

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(Educational) Film of the Week: Reading, Writing and Reefer (1979)

After-school specials are arguably the best-known (and perennially popular) category of educational film. This has to do more with the unintended irony and outdated rhetoric, rather than their originally intended purpose as informational and instructional media.

A prime example of one of the leading sub-genres, anti-drug campaign films, is surely Reading, Writing, and Reefer released in 1979 as an episode in the (ironically titled) series “NBC Special Treat.”

The film follows in the precedent long established by such war-on-drugs classics as Marijuana (1936), Reefer Madness (1937), The Terrible Truth (1951) and The Marijuana Gateway (1968). While it is important to understand that these films were not meant for the same audience and are frequently reflections of the political and sociocultural debates of the time, such films help us understanding the history of medical, civic and pedagogical understanding of psychotropic substances, including – in the most prominent case – of canabis.

Reading, Writing, and Reefer was co-sponsored by Robert DuPont who would later become the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the White House’s anti-drug czar. As one contemporary review put it, the TV special aimed to “portrayed a nation of schoolchildren turned into zombies by pot”; it thus anticipated an apex in the War on Drugs promotional campaign of the 1970s, that started with Richard Nixon’s 1971 press conference on the issue and ended (for the most part) with Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” rallies.

The film is particularly pointed in its language and imagery, with scenes of “15-year-old heroin addicts and 12-year-old middle school students from affluent suburbs who skipped class and smoked upward of five joints per day.” In addition to it being broadcast on a national network, it had a very wide circulation within schools and a quick search reveals several 16mm prints in circulation today some three and half decades after its premiere. Its use of exaggerated and untested statistics (“five joints is equal to smoking 112 cigarettes”) and the sarcastic stance it takes toward an “idle” youth culture deviate from the more scientific tone of similar films that have not had the cult afterlife of Reading, Writing, and Reefer.

Major educational film catalogs consistently included entire categories dedicated to substance-abuse information films and separate publications like “99+ films on drugs” (1970) and “Selected Drug Abuse Education Films” were issued. In future editions of our blog we will be highlighting films produced throughout this period and the different ways in which they tackled this sensitive but culturally important issue.

Dimitrios Latsis

CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for the Visual Studies, The Internet Archive



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QUINTET: Guest Curating the Archive by Gary Gach

Photo by Colin Gift

Photo by Colin Gift

My Picks

  1. The Stranger  (Orson Welles)
  2. Conquer By the Clock  (Slavko Vorkapich)
  3. Mercury Theater of the Air (Orson Welles)
  4. The Prelinger Archives
  5. The City  (Ralph Steiner, Willard Van Dyke)

A couple months ago, I volunteered to be a tester of the redesign of the Internet Archive’s new interface. So, to prep, I decided to visit, online, during my lunch hours, to familiarize myself a little better beforehand with the Archive’s riches. Here’s an initial report of a few of my favorite findings –- of possible interest.

  1. THE STRANGER (1946)—directed by Orson Welles

As my mouse hovered over the home page, poised over petabytes of universal wealth – an image came to mind from the last scene of Citizen Kane. A few journalists have gathered at the great hall of Charles Foster Kane’s castle, dwarfed against an unreal, gargantuan assemblage of “…objects great and small…piled pell-mell all over the place. Furniture, statues, paintings, bric-a-brac, things of obviously enormous value… standing beside a kitchen stove, an old rocking chair….a Burmese Temple and three Spanish ceilings down the hall….all in crates….” A nameless newspaperman wonders aloud what if— what if all the paintings and palaces and toys were all put together: what would it spell? (Imagine asking that about a petabyte of this archive!)The_Stranger_(film)

So, as a point of departure, I started with Orson Welles. Just a click of the mouse, and Presto! I found what I feel is one of his best, and one of his few cohesive movies, The Stranger (1946) — and in a quite decent print, thanks to its depositor. Its tags (those indispensable, subtextual, navigational landmarks) include WWII, thriller, mystery, drama and film noir.

Noir deserves a separate blog. (“Film noir” literally might mean a black screen, blank, without image.) For now, my definition (25-words-or-less): film noir registered an undercurrent of dissatisfaction within a triumphal, post-War American society. In it, good and evil, shadow and light, are polarized, and even switch roles.

And noir presents a curatorial challenge, as it’s usually mistaken as a genre (like thriller, mystery, comedy, Western, etc.), when really it’s a style (like baroque, hard-boiled, minimalist, postmodernist, etc.) It’s not always offbeat, rock ’em-sock ’em, but can also apply to documentary, comedy, romance, period drama, and so on. Prime noir features “mood cinematography” — pictures that can tell thousands of words. And traditional noir owes a great pictorial debt to German Expressionism. But, enough.

Anyhoo — noir style is most apt here, as The Stranger is about the infiltration of ex-Nazis into American society. What violence occurs on screen is Shakespearean, rather than gratuitous, yet the theme itself is quite unnerving. And there’s a haunting use of the subtext of clocks. That kept ticking in my mind as I continued on through the Archive.

Image courtesy Cannes Festival 2015

Image courtesy Cannes Festival 2015

  1. CONQUER BY THE CLOCK (1943) directed by Slavko Vorkapich

Next, I looked up the ace film montage specialist, “Slavko Vorkapich,” just out of curiosity — and, Shazam! a discovery! I’m already familiar with his 1941 pictorial fantasy, starring… the sea!  But I’d never seen his solo short, Conquer by the Clock (1943). And, fortuitously, it forms a curious sidebar to The Stranger. Just as a film montage juxtaposes images, it’s interesting to juxtapose films, as well.

Conquer by the Clock is propaganda – it’s preachy – and it’s a peachy piece of work. From the perfectly constructed opening montage of men picking up tools (like clockwork,) to its two morality tales, on to the rousing finale, it’s all of a piece and runs like a Swiss watch. They sure don’t make them like that anymore. Notice, for instance, how the squarish ratio of the screen permits a montage of ideas, which got left behind when the studios widened the screen, trying to compete with TV.

Orson Welles quite likely saw Clock (1943), before making The Stranger (1946). No question in my mind. For me, frankly, the question is, “Did Orson Welles ever understand cinematic montage?” He was a theater person who took to radio like a duck to water – but in his cinematic work (with exceptions like The Stranger, and Kane) his operative strategy of cinematic montage seemed more like a carnival of attractions, an amusement park rather than a dynamic whole like Vorkapich’s.



I’ve never seen his theater, but Orson Welles’ genius truly blossomed beautifully in the realm of radio theater. This is one of my lifelong, hands-down, favorite media. I grew up with radio alongside TV and movies. I preferred radio. Why? Simple: the pictures were better! Radio catered to the unrivaled medium of them all: human imagination. I invite you to set aside some time in the coming year to stroll through the golden era of radio drama at the Internet Archive. Listen with some friends, the way families used to gather together around a radio.

Radio broadcasted the gamut: comedies and westerns, melodramas and gangster tales. For a time, Orson Welles was a cut above, establishing and maintaining a repertory company of gifted dramatic artists presenting vivid radio adaptations of literature. It was called the Mercury Theater of the Air. The company was best known for its 1938 adaptation of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, (aka “the panic broadcast”) — arguably the Media Event of the 20th Century

Lesser known, but highly worth the time, are their dozens of other adaptations. Try a few, to acquire a taste. From the wild storytelling of The Count of Monte Cristo – to the simple spell of Our Town, recorded a few years after its stage debut. I’ve yet to hear them all, while others I keep coming back to. I’ve never been anything but totally engrossed and amazed by their pleasures.

CaliforniaSt Prelinger


Next, a further lateral move. Having branched out from individual works to a collection, here’s another collection, from which Clock was taken. Of the many collections in the Internet Archive one of my hands-down favorites has been the Prelinger Archives. For background, it might worth digressing to touch upon the idea of a “film archive” in general.

In the early 20th-century, Henri Langlois had a passion for collecting film. Back then, people thought motion pictures an ephemeral amusement, a mere bagatelle. Eventually, as people came to appreciate cinema more discerningly, they discovered he had the only copies of forgotten masterpieces as well as missing reels of important movies. .:.

In Paris, in 1938, Henri Langlois co-founded an archive for the preservation and presentation of cinema, the Cinémathèque Française. In 1968, Richard Prelinger launched an archive for films still considered ephemeral – training films, propaganda, home movies, and so on. I’ve been a fan of his work since its inception, and was thrilled when the Library of Congress acquired his collection — and the Internet Archive began making major portions available via the Net.

If you haven’t yet visited the Prelinger Archives, pack a lunch before you visit, ‘cos there’s an overflowing cornucopia of treasures and treats in store. For an initial program guide, I recommend the profile in Mental Floss (2007).

Scene from "The City," 1939

Scene from “The City,” 1939

  1. THE CITY (1939)—directed by Ralph Steiner & Willard Van Dyke

Where to go next? To round out my initial tour, I wanted to end on an up note. I’ve been impressed by how Brewster Kahle, Archivista Numero Uno, has definitely been doing the right thing in trying to figure out how to include housing into the equation for his employees. As much of the world now knows, San Francisco is now aiming to welcome 150,000 new citizens, in a city limited to seven by seven miles. How come? This physical and cultural transfiguration is being fueled by the new Gold Rush: software companies large and small, plus a bevy of Silicon Valley moguls. Rents have spiked such that, last week, a venerable 93-year-old tamale parlor had to close ‘cos its employees cannot afford to live here anymore. Interesting times.

All of that — plus my search for an antidote to our opening noir despair — motivated my looking up a film I hadn’t seen since I was a sophomore at UCLA, The City (1939) and – perfect! There it is. Right at my fingertips. Plus, there’s a handy narrative summary and partial shot list. Alongside all that, one can also cross-reference, starting with entries in Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Directed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, this visionary documentary features music by Aaron Copland and commentary by philosopher/critic, Lewis Mumford.

Seen today, the film is itself an archive of Americana – and a still vital call for shaping a humane, resilient urban future. Flawed in spots, it yet serves as a much-needed tonic, while such American cities as Allentown, Asheville, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, and others, here and around the planet, deeply consider revitalization, sustainability, and community in these transitional times. “Think global, act local.” GG says, “Check out The City!”

May you and all beings enjoy the wisdom of infinite light and the compassion of endless life in this New Year. Amen!

.:. Hollywood has always downplayed its cultural and artistic importance. (“Aw, shucks, we’re just an amusement business that’s gotten real popular.”) Had it acknowledged the fact that film might just well be the great art form of the 20th century – marrying pictorial representation, musical form, drama, science, and technology – then all the movie studios would be beholden to preserving miles and miles of celluloid. Bottom line: no way.

Gary Gach writes haiku and swims in the San Francisco Bay. He is also author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism (Nautilus Book Award) and editor of What Book!? Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). He hosts the Mindfulness Fellowship weekly in San Francisco. And a shout-out to the Internet Archive: when an anonymous hacker took down his home page (1997-2008), the WayBack Machine came to the rescue.


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Digitization at Scale or What does it Mean to Scan for Access?

As previously reported on this blog, the Internet Archive is engaged in a large-scale digitization project of over ten thousand reels of educational, industrial and amateur films as well as the development of tools that facilitate pedagogical and research use of this collection. In doing this we have striven to follow guidelines and specifications accepted within the archival community and consulted with partners on best practices and workflows. We have also been actively involved in discussions and webinars within the Association of Moving Image Archivists to develop a tiered approach that best serves the needs of each project.

Such a differentiated approach is necessitated by the fact that digitization of physical assets held by archives, libraries and museums has thus far been construed as the generation of preservation-quality digital surrogates that can serve a number of potential needs: restoration, exhibition and online distribution among them. Setting the bar this high has understandably hindered progress and made archivists reticent to invest in the time, personnel and equipment needed to plan such a complex project. The result has been  enormous backlogs, widespread neglect — especially in genres and modes of filmmaking like non-theatrical films where there is no immediate incentive for distribution and commercial exploitation –and overwhelmed grant makers (NFPF, CLIR) trying desperately to prioritize from a sea of equally worthy projects.

Granted, this situation cannot be solely attributed to the insistence for high standards and the costs of film preservation; nor is this a call for the bar to be lowered on these fronts. Instead, the archival community should replicate what has been a very successful and continuously updated set of guidelines for preservation into the realm of digitization which currently lacks national, disciplinary and scholarly guidance. We desperately need a set of shared practices that can serve a wide variety of institutions while keeping in mind the primary reason why we are all striving to preserve our shared audiovisual heritage in the first place: to put it (back) in the hands of the public, on as global and open-access base as possible.

The Internet Archive as a whole is driven by this philosophy and thus it is no surprise that in our film digitization activities too, emphasis has been placed on scale and access.

IA Poster-page-001

Instead of following the example of other major archives that are frequently constrained (as a partner complained to us) into scanning a maximum of 100 reels of home movies a year out of a collection that numbers in the tens of thousands, we have chosen to take a nuanced approach into what NARA calls “distribution/reproduction” masters.

We ask ourselves what it would  be like to structure a digitization workflow on the following assumptions:

  1. that we are providing digital surrogates of films that have long been unavailable, buried in archives or destroyed through de-accessioning and chronic neglect;
  2. our films are often many generations removed from camera originals and thus not fit to be used as preservation masters;
  3. copies of most of our films exist in many other archives and libraries, nearly none of whom has a plan or the resources to digitize them in the near future;
  4. we aim to build an extensive collection (in breadth and depth) in a single genre –educational films– that can act as a proof of concept and example for future work of a similar nature (digitization- and metadata-wise)
  5. we do not want to lock films down because of lack of clarity in rights issues; we aim for the widest availability possible.

Currently at the Internet Archive, we are digitizing, uploading, curating and making publicly available (in most cases for the first time in many decades) upwards of 40 hours of content every week. That corresponds to almost 100 reels of 16mm film and 1,5 terabytes of audiovisual files. This is approaching the amount of original programming that the NET (National Educational Television) was providing weekly to its viewers during its heyday. We are doing this with a limited staff, enthusiastic volunteers, one 16mm film scanner and optimum coordination from the physical to the digital to the online curation realms.

While numbers don’t tell the whole story, it’s certainly hard to argue that an access-based model of digitization should not be part of the (inter)national conversation about the preservation of our audiovisual heritage.

Dimitrios Latsis

CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for the Visual Studies, Internet Archive



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Internet Credit Union 2011-2015: RIP

[background, NYTimes]

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Rest in Peace

[previous, NYtimes]

Dear National Credit Union Administration,

You win, we lose.
This is our notice of Voluntary Liquidation of the Internet Credit Union.
We write this hoping many of you will read it.

You did not need to crush this credit union.
You did not need to make it take over 18 months to charter, forcing 5,000 changes to our application documents.
You did not need to restrict our total loan portfolio to $37,000 when we had $1,000,000 in reserve for bad loans.
You did not need to keep us from lending $8,000 to a student, forcing him from college.
You did not need to keep us from originating mortgages for permanently affordable housing.
You did not need to keep us from working with other credit unions on their loans and our loans.
You did not need to force us to revoke the membership of our migrant farm worker members.
You did not need to send people into our offices every month for 2 years taking up our time.
You did not need to treat us like children. And yes, your people said they were “treating us like children” in a meeting with our board.
You didn’t need to laugh when Occupy sent you an application to start a credit union, snarking
”That is not going to happen.” And yes, an NCUA official said that while we were in your offices in DC.
You do not need to overreact every time the Federal Reserve sends you a letter like you did over bitcoin.
You do not need to sow fear into every small and medium sized credit union with your subjective rating system.

You can stop hurting, and start helping.

You need to stand up to the banks that want our membership rules to be arbitrary and shifting under us.
Technology has made starting and running a Credit Union easy.
We need you to not shut down 200 to 300 Credit Unions a year.
We need you to not start 1 or 2 Credit Unions a year, but start 500 credit unions a year (as used to happened before the NCUA existed).
You can create a 5 page application, that any group can submit in a month to get started.
You can leave new credit unions alone for a couple of years.
Clean house of your agents of shutdown, and replace them with agents of start-up.
Thousands of communities are not geographically clumped, let them start credit unions.
27% of our citizens are “underbanked” – your organization is part of the reason for this.
We need a distributed and robust banking system for deposits, transactions, and grassroots credit.
NCUA: Please fix yourself.

We need you… We need you to change.

Your Sincerely,
Members of the Board of the, now dead, Internet Credit Union

Internet Credit Union 2011-2015

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)

Posted in News, Announcements | 11 Comments

The Internet Archive Telethon: December 19th-20th! Tickets Available!

To spice up our end-of-year fundraising drive, a number of employees of the Internet Archive are going to be hosting a 24-hour Telethon at our 300 Funston Location!

This will not only be a livestreamed event, but in a grand experiment, a simultaneous live event happening for a lucky audience, who can attend up to the full length of the telethon and have an overnight experience in a truly unique place.

The telethon location is the Great Room, Internet Archive’s legendary meeting space and stage and home to our ceramic archivists and multiple petabytes of our content.  The fun begins at noon on Saturday, December 19th, and goes through non-stop to noon on September 20th.



Your hosts are Michelle Krasowski and Jason Scott, who will be sharing duties and shifts throughout the 24-hour marathon, introducing and interviewing guests, and answering questions and requests from the on-site and on-line audiences.

We have been hard at work arranging appearances and performances from a wide variety of folks, including musical acts like Conspiracy of Beards and Marisa Lenhardt, longtime friends of the Archive including Nuala Creed and Megan Prelinger, and surprises, strangeness and dips into the deep stacks of the Archives the whole way through!

More will be added, so be sure to check both the Eventbrite page or our pop-up site at telethon.archive.org for who else is making appearances.

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(Educational) Film of the Week: Now is the Time (1967)

The Internet Archive’s educational film collection is particularly rich in films from the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, events and movements of national and international important like the Vietnam War (Interviews with My Lai veterans (1970)) and the Civil Rights movement (Civil rights movement: the North (1966)) are well represented.

One of the more interesting and hard-to-find ones is surely Now is the Time (1967) featuring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (a couple in real life).

Davis and Dee participated in a variety of similarly themed film, including some in our collection like Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad (1964).

Produced for NBC’s local affiliate in Philadelphia and originally broadcast on December 13, 1967 (a few weeks before the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination), the tone of Now is the Time is that of reporting on history as it happens. Although it does not pretend to impartiality – the two hosts act as voices-of-conscience and often speak  in the first person – it cover the decade’s events succinctly and accurately: a story of anger but also of a people of “remarkable strength.” Archival footage, interviews, songs and music compliments the evocative staged vignettes between Davis and Dee in the studio.

The film won a number of awards and was featured in a number of prominent publications about educational film, including Richard A. Maynard’s The celluloid curriculum: how to use movies in the classroom (1971, see page 29) and was even the subject of a recent Master’s thesis (JoyEllen Freeman, Portrayal of Power: Black Nationalism in the Documentary Now Is the Time, University of Georgia, 2011)

This a wonderful example of how programs on current affairs that by the 1960s had transitioned from the newsreel to the TV set, where often repurposed in the opposite direction; transferred on 16mm these “films” often had a second life in the educational and non-thetrical market. Indeed, it is striking to find a film as opinionated and potentially controversial as The Time is Now  in the curriculum of public schools (in this case in the state of Pennsylvania). This is just another indication of how varied, transmedial and socioculturally rich the medium of the educational film was during its heyday.

Dimitrios Latsis

CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for the Visual Studies, The Internet Archive

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Film of the Week: Film Firsts (1959-60)

The Internet Archive is actively engaged in digitizing a wide variety of educational films on science, education, the arts, psychology, medicine and history. In this new blog series, we will highlight films that are newly digitized and available each week on the collection page, to provide visitors with a better idea of the breadth and depth of this quirky, informative and much-in-need-of-preservation medium: the non-theatrical film.

First up is Film Firsts a documentary in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) covering the early history and development of the medium of motion pictures.

Our collection is rich in films about the film medium itself, whether aspects of its production (e.g. Cinematographer) or its history (e.g. Hollywood: The Golden Years and Hollywood the Dream Factory). Film Firsts, however, focuses on the early part of cinema’s developed the period usually described as early and silent cinema.

Produced for television audiences (ABC) but also screened for school groups and other non-theatrical audiences, the two-part, hour-long documentary does not exactly amount to a thorough and unbiased history but it is very representative of this reflexive sub-genre that dealt with the evolution of the motion picture. Often such films catered to the audience’s nostalgia in an era where memories of the nickelodeon and the picture palace were very much alive. They also provided a venue for studios to repurpose their library of films for the era of television. Finally, in a more implicit manner, they partook in an evolutionary rhetoric that cast the turn-of-the-century flickers as a primitive manifestation  of an art and industry that by the 1950s and 60s had blossomed into a global entertainment empire.

While film historians have long pointed out the fallacy in such reasoning, it is still useful to  consider these compilation/history documentaries for the narrative of film’s development that they provide, the moments along this trajectory that they choose to highlight and, just as important, what they obscure or gloss over.

Film Firsts has references to all the usual highlights: Edison’s Black Maria studio, Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Melies’ Trip to the Moon, as well as a substantial section on early Westerns. This reflects the origins of the project in director Paul Killiam’s “Movie Museum” talks covering “films of historical interest illustrated by clips of vintage 1895 to 1915.” Many similar compilation films started as programs of the lecture circuit, reflecting a significant practice of the non-theatrical market.

Focusing on well-known “screen personalities” like Bronco Billy Anderson, but also delving into more idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes aspects of the art and craft of moviemaking like special effects and animation, Killam compiles a list of “bests” and “firsts”: the first close-up, the first kiss, the first cartoon, the first western, the first use of lighting for effect, etc. Although, even with the resources that historians and archivists have today it is always perilous to claim any single example of an effect, practice or technique as “the first” of its kind, the authoritative voice of the documentary accurately represents an early vein of film historiography (see also works by Terry Ramsay and Maurice Bardèche and Robert Brasillach in the same period). As the medium was entering its second half-century of life, it was taking stock of pioneers, sentimentally remembering great moments and stars of the past, and “leafing” through its own history, as one might leaf through an old scrapbook or album of photographs.

Film Firsts thus represents this early “scrapbook” phase of historiography, crucial in that it was conducted by the medium itself in an era where it’s viability was threatened by the popularity of television — which is here deployed in the service of the older medium. It was actually the first episode in a six-part series entitled “Silents Please! The History of the Motion Picture” that promised an overview of “the stars, thrills, laughter and heartbreak” of silent cinema. Whether a nostalgic look on a much-evolved medium, a semi-authoritative account of the people and technology that made the motion picture possible or a potpourri of clips and firsts for the consumption a television audience, the film is a valuable document of historiography in practice and as such a valuable addition to our collection covering the history of educational audiovisual media.

For more information on the film see:


Dimitrios Latsis

CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for the Visual Studies, Internet Archive.

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Home Movie Day–A Celebration of Amateur Films and Filmmaking

Do you have a much loved home movie sitting in the back of your closet?  Something you would love to screen but don’t have the means to project anymore?  Then Home Movie Day is for you.  The Internet Archive will be hosting Home Movie Day for the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, December 12, 2015 starting at 3 p.m.  The event if free and open to the public.  Reserve your free tickets here.

Home Movie Day provides an opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their own home movies with an audience from their own community, and to see their neighbors’ in turn. It’s a chance to discover why these films are important and learn how best to care for them. We will have the film projectors, you are encouraged to bring your own home movies on 8mm, 16mm, or Super 8 to project on our big screen.

From 3:00-5:30 p.m. come enjoy free food and drinks, learn how the Internet Archive digitizes thousands of educational films, and participate in presentations on local history by the Western Neighborhoods Project.

From 5-7 p.m. there will be the Open Screening of your home movies.

8-8:45 p.m. Stay to enjoy some of the Bay Area’s best home movies curated by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the Internet Archive with live organ music accompanying the (mostly) silent films.

We are still accepting early submissions of your home movies for screening, both at the Internet Archive (300 Funston Avenue, SF) and at the Center for Asian American Media (145 Ninth Street, Suite  350, SF).  Home Movie Day is organized by Pamela Vadakan (California Audio Visual Preservation Project), Antonella Bonfanti (Canyon Cinema/Center for Home Movies), CAAM and the Internet Archive.


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How You Can Put Knowledge into the Hands of Millions

Dear Friends,

Brewster Older PhotoToday is #GivingTuesday, the one day you are encouraged to give to your favorite charities. This GivingTuesday, I hope the Internet Archive will be at the top of your list. By giving a small amount, you can put knowledge in the hands of millions of people, for years and years.

I’ve always believed in public libraries. Now is no different. We need a library for the digital generation. A special place we can go to learn and explore. That’s why I founded the Internet Archive—to give everyone access to our cultural treasures. Forever. For free.

I made it a non-profit because this library is powered and enabled
by everyone else. By those who are building the collections and those who are using the collections. Other people are not working for us, we are working for them. I thought a non-profit was the right way to do that.

In our Wayback Machine, we’re saving one billion Web captures each week. People download 20 million books on our site each month. The key is to keep improving—and to keep it free. That’s where you can help us.

The InterHands 2net Archive is a non-profit library built on trust. Reader privacy is very important to us, so we don’t run ads that track your behavior. We don’t sell your personal information. But we still need to pay for the increasing costs of servers, staff and rent.

This is the one time of year I ask you to help keep the Internet Archive free and free of ads. Please consider donating $25, $50, $75 or whatever you can afford. It’s is a small amount to inform millions. Help us do more. I promise you–it’s money well spent.

Thank you.

Brewster Kahle

Founder & Digital Librarian, Internet Archive

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Difficult Times at our Credit Union

Brewster Kahle, Chairman of the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union, November 2015

[NYtimes story, Motherboard, BoingBoing. Liquidation.]

All deposits are safe, all loans performing, great and dedicated staff, wonderful members. So why difficult? Despite five years of effort, $1 million in donations spent (from the Internet Archive) and $1 million in the bank to back any bad loans (from the Kahle/Austin Foundation), we are only further from our goal: To create a financial institution that can justly serve our communities. It now looks likely that overwhelming regulatory burden will force us to give up our quest. But don’t worry, even in this case we have more than enough money for all depositors and can place our few outstanding loans. So all is safe, but we thought we should give an update.


Started in New Brunswick New Jersey in January 2011 and then chartered 19 months later, we invested in growing our membership based on a dream of a new kind of credit union, but now our membership is shrinking because the regulators (the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA) kept tightening our requirements for membership. Also, the services they allow us to offer have been restricted to payday-like loans and small car loans– ones we were not excited to offer in the first place and not lucrative enough to break even. So now we serve only about 100 members and a total of about 400 account holders, and we are not even serving them in ways we wanted to. We wanted to do 3 types of things, none of which we are succeeding at, which makes losing money even harder to endure.

Brewster Kahle and Jordan Modell, at our grand opening celebration November 2012.

Brewster Kahle and Jordan Modell, at our grand opening celebration November 2012.

We wanted to help the under-served, but the restrictions made this too difficult. We tried to offer student loans, but we were limited to lending only $5,000. This was a particular problem when, for example, an under-documented local Rutgers student with a 700+ credit score and a part-time job needed $8,000 to stay in school but others would not help him. We sought an exception from the NCUA, but they said no. In another case, we worked with a migrant farm workers association to offer their members access to the credit union. We set up a system that allowed them to send money back home with much lower fees than organizations such as Western Union. We had set up services to help undocumented workers so they could pay their fair share of taxes and put them on a path to citizenship. But after ruling that we could accept members of this migrant farm workers as members then a lower level examiners reversed this decision and we had to move all of those members to non-members effectively killing our relationship with the migrant farm workers association. Also, our members wanted to send outgoing wire transfers but the NCUA would not allow it resulting in many members leaving. You probably get the idea, we certainly did.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

Internet Credit Union board and staff in April 2014.

We wanted to create permanently affordable housing by offering targeted mortgages. With the banking crisis leading to millions going into foreclosure, we thought we could find ways to help. With abundant capital for our credit union (in this case donations) and experience from Jordan Modell, a banker of over 20 years, we built a great team, board, and partnerships, we gave it a whirl. We were encouraged by how generous the other credit unions and community members were. But as I said, the regulators never let us lend more than $5,000 to anyone much less originate mortgages. The Internet Archive has made progress anyway in affordable housing by starting a “Foundation House,” but unfortunately the credit union is not allowed to build on this example.

We also wanted to make a model so that thousands of credit unions could be started to serve their local communities as happened in the 1930’s and 40’s. Our CEO, Jordan Modell, wrote a blog so others might learn from us and spent hundreds of hours with others wanting to start credit unions. But even though it is logistically easy to start and run a fully functional credit union given the technology back-end services available today, the regulators made it very hard to succeed. After a year and a half of full time work on our application, and their demands for 5,236 changes (really) to our application documents, we were learning they were not interested in new credit unions. We found that generally only a handful of new federal credit unions are allowed to start each year. One of the four our year was a Navajo credit union that spent 44 months getting through the process. We were stunned to find we were the first full service credit union chartered in New Jersey since the NCUA was formed 1970.

After years of losing money I asked our board, which included several that ran credit unions, “How do we break even?”  They said we should find those that need services that are financially lucrative, and they suggested we look to our unique relationship with the Internet. Since we were prevented from making significant loans, we thought that maybe we could get enough deposits and invest them in CDs and wait for the NCUA to let us serve the communities. Fortunately there was an opportunity was opening up. In 2013 bitcoin firms were in the news and banks were closing their accounts. The Internet Archive had some experience with bitcoin because people had donated bitcoins for a couple of years. The Internet Archive used them as partial pay their interested employees, to buy books at the neighborhood bookstore, and buy sushi next door. I suggested the credit union present at a bitcoin conference, which was well received.  Our credit union asked permission from the NCUA to bank bitcoin companies and they granted it. We opened accounts for three small firms. All good– until it wasn’t. The NCUA suddenly demanded we close the accounts. So we reluctantly closed them forcing one of the companies into bankruptcy. The NCUA suggested we open accounts for the individual customers of one of the failed firms so they could receive their money. But then the NCUA kept auditing and investigating us at a level that often took more hours than what we spent on all member services combined. They have been in our branch now around once a month for 2 years, driving up our costs and driving down our services.

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)

sources: Credit Union National Association, NCUA (via the Wayback Machine)



I don’t think it is just us. For sure, we made mistakes but also had unusual advantages: experienced banker CEO, almost unlimited capital, and a market that wanted alternative banking options. I now believe it is not just us, because 200 to 300 credit unions are shut down every year, many of which by the NCUA which was started in 1970. Only a few are allowed to start. All the while, it has never been easier to create and operate a small full-service credit union, complete with debit cards, ATM’s, and online banking. We have heard many tales from other credit unions and the associations that try to help new ones that echo our experiences. “By any measure, the future for small credit unions looks bleak,” says the Financial Brand. We now know first hand how they go after small and medium sized credit unions and force them to merge their assets into bigger credit unions. If you have an account in a credit union, especially a small or medium sized one, I would worry that they will go after yours.

I told my tale of woe to a friend, John Markoff, at a party and he suggested I tell it to another New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper, who turned out to be interested. Few go to the press because there is little upside as the regulators hold absolute power and could react negatively to critical press.

We decided to go to the press as part of our original idea– share our experience so others may learn from us. Unfortunately, we do not have a successful model for others to copy. It may have just been us, but I don’t think so. The United States may not be the place to sustain a grassroots community banking system, at least one that has anything to do with the existing regulators. Maybe the regulators will change, and there are some bringing up issues. Maybe people will build a new system, but so far, the US regulators are aggressively resistant. Maybe some other country will be interested in new ideas and welcome entrepreneurs. Maybe other credit unions that have felt crushed by the regulators will come forward and tell their stories creating momentum for change. I see a system as unhealthy if regulators put 200 to 300 institutions out of business every year for decades on end while only allowing a few to start.

Part of the reason the regulators may act this way is how technically insecure the money system is. As an engineer, when I looked at how the transaction systems work, I was shocked to see few technological safeguards. I imagine there is major fraud activity. Ironically, the bankers and regulators need exactly the technologists that they are pushing away.

All in all, we are sad. Many people have spent years building a new credit union and we have little to show for it. We had hopes. When I was young I had a passbook from my village’s savings and loan– they helped me save my paperboy money so I could spend it on my stamp collection. But through the 80’s I saw the regulators, and the de-regulators, take our beloved savings and loans across the country and roll them up and blown them up– mine was gone in 1989. I wonder if this is what is happening to our small and medium sized credit unions.

More as it happens, but these are difficult times for our credit union. Thank you for all of the help.




Number of Credit Unions in the United States and the number change each year (NCUA started in 1970). Source: CUNA.

Number Yearly Change
1939 8,035
1940 9,224 1,189
1941 10,316 1,092
1942 10,272 -44
1943 10,158 -114
1944 8,930 -1,228
1945 8,823 -107
1946 8,944 121
1947 9,130 186
1948 9,320 190
1949 10,062 742
1950 10,586 524
1951 11,278 692
1952 12,280 1,002
1953 13,690 1,410
1954 15,067 1,377
1955 16,192 1,125
1956 17,246 1,054
1957 18,191 945
1958 18,860 669
1959 19,512 652
1960 20,094 582
1961 20,604 510
1962 20,984 380
1963 21,363 379
1964 21,800 437
1965 22,109 309
1966 22,680 571
1967 23,029 349
1968 23,420 391
1969 23,866 446
1970 23,687 -179 Year the NCUA Started
1971 23,267 -420
1972 23,098 -169
1973 22,982 -116
1974 22,940 -42
1975 22,677 -263
1976 22,581 -96
1977 22,382 -199
1978 22,203 -179
1979 21,981 -222
1980 21,465 -516
1981 20,784 -681
1982 19,897 -887
1983 19,095 -802
1984 18,375 -720
1985 17,654 -721
1986 16,928 -726
1987 16,274 -654
1988 15,709 -565
1989 15,121 -588
1990 14,549 -572
1991 13,989 -560
1992 13,385 -604
1993 12,960 -425
1994 12,551 -409
1995 12,230 -321
1996 11,887 -343
1997 11,659 -228
1998 11,392 -267
1999 11,016 -376
2000 10,684 -332
2001 10,355 -329
2002 10,041 -314
2003 9,709 -332
2004 9,346 -363
2005 9,011 -335
2006 8,662 -349
2007 8,396 -266
2008 8,089 -307
2009 7,830 -259
2010 7,605 -225
2011 7,351 -254
2012 7,070 -281
2013 6,795 -275
2014 6,513 -282
Posted in News, Announcements | 18 Comments

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco: Fundraiser for the Internet Archive — Thursday, December 10, 2015


The 10th annual screening of Lost Landscapes, Rick Prelinger’s archival tour of San Francisco’s past (and anticipation of its future) happens again at the Internet Archive on Thursday, December 10.  Your ticket donations will benefit the Internet Archive, the non-profit digital library that hosts the Prelinger Collection. Please give generously to support our mission:  providing universal access to our cultural treasures, including these cinematic gems.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
6:30 pm Reception
7:30 pm Interactive Film Program

Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

Get tickets here!

Combining past favorites with new cinematic discoveries, this feature-length program shows San Francisco’s neighborhoods, landmarks, celebrations and people from 1906 through the 1970s. New sequences this year include 1930s downtown tavern scenes, New Deal labor graphics and an exuberant 1940s Labor Day parade, radical longshore workers, newly discovered World War II-era tourist-shot Kodachrome film, residential neighborhood activities and much more.

As usual, the audience creates the soundtrack — audience members are asked to identify places and events, ask questions, share their thoughts, and create an unruly interactive symphony of speculation about the city we’ve lost and the city we’d like to live in.

The film begins at 7:30 pm and is preceded by an informal reception that begins at 6:30 pm. Light concessions will be available for purchase. Although capacity is limited, no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

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Pro-Airbnb advertising dominated recent political TV ads in San Francisco

Based on algorithmic analysis, Pro-Airbnb advertising dominated political TV ads in San Francisco in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Two thirds of the minutes devoted to political ads on several initiatives and races before voters focused on arguments against a proposal to curb the company’s operations in the city, according to a review of the Internet Archive television archive. Voters ended up rejecting Proposition F, whose opponents claimed it would encourage neighbors to spy on each other and increase lawsuits, by a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

Minutes of TV Political Ads in San Francisco

The Archive identified total of 1,959 minutes of ads (4,591 plays) opposing Proposition F, out of 2,895 minutes devoted to all political TV ads, or roughly two thirds of the air-time.

To put that in perspective, Mayor Ed Lee, who won his reelection easily, was the subject of only 55 minutes of ads. Though he appeared in and narrated hundreds of ads supporting Propositions A and D, the only ads that mention his mayoral race were airings of a support ad paid for not by his own campaign, but rather by an independent expenditure from Clint Reilly, a local real estate developer and former professional political consultant.

Samples of all ads found to be related to 2015 San Francisco elections can be viewed here, and metadata about those that occurred in archived television can be downloaded from this page.

The only political ad that aired on television in support of proposition F was this one, which was observed for a total of 16 minutes between October 16th to 25th. The ad, which features a parody of the Eagles’ song “Hotel California,” was pulled from Youtube and the ShareBetterSF campaign website because of claims of copyright infringement. Dale Carlson, a spokesman for the campaign who contacted the Archive, wrote “We believe the ad is parody and did not constitute a copyright violation. But it had already run its course and we weren’t going to spend money on legal bills to defend an ad that was already off the air.”

In all, the Archive identified 14 unique ads opposing Proposition F that aired on TV. In the final days of the campaign, the opponents devoted airtime to this ad that calls the proposal “too extreme,” quotes from the San Francisco Chronicle, and cites high profile opponents such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Lee. This 30-second ad aired 423 times on 10 channels in San Francisco (CNBC, CNN, FOXNEWS, KGO, KNTV, KOFY, KPIX, KRON, KTVU, MSNBC).

This review updates an earlier one issued last week focused exclusively on Airbnb ads, broadening the analysis to include all political TV ads aired from August 25th through November 3.  The Archive identified ads through a number of sources, including SFGov’s Summary of Third Party Expenditures Regarding San Francisco Candidates hosted by the City of San Francisco. An audio fingerprint was created for each ad and used to find matches in some 35,000 hours of archived local station programming and cable news network shows available in the San Francisco region.  The Internet Archive’s television news research library presents public opportunities to search, compare and contrast news programs in its archive.  Entertainment programming is only available for select algorithmic study within its server environment.

The Internet Archive’s review of political TV ads relating to Proposition F is part of experimentation in preparation for our new Knight Foundation funded project to track political TV ads in key primary states. Stay tuned for news about our December launch.

Research by Trevor von Stein

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Aaron Swartz Day – Hackathon, Privacy-enabling conference and Reception

aaron swartz

In memory of Aaron Swartz, whose social, technical, and political insights still touch us daily, Lisa Rein, in partnership with the Internet Archive, will be hosting a weekend of events on Saturday, November 7 and Sunday, November 8. Friends, collaborators, and hackers can participate in a Hackathon, Privacy-enabling Mini Conference, and Aaron Swartz Day Reception.

Schedule of events held at the Internet Archive:

 Saturday, November 7 10am-6pm and Sunday, November 8 11am-5pm participate in the Hackathon, which will focus on SecureDrop, the whistleblower submission system originally created by Aaron just before he passed away. 

Journalists, librarians, researchers, students: Here’s your chance to spend two days learning about encryption and privacy-enabling software at the Privacy-enabling Mini Conference – make your laptop, phone, and other devices more secure by the end of the day.

Saturday, November 7

  • 10am, the folks from Keybase, who will be providing both a beginning and an advanced tutorials.
  • 1pm, Cooper Quintin, Staff Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will talk about the what, where, and how of Privacy Badger, EFF’s privacy-enhancing creepy-tracker-blocking browser extension.
  • 2pm, Micah Lee, of The Intercept and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, will be giving his “Encryption for Journalists” workshop, so that journalists, librarians, researchers, or anyone else needing to, can protect their sources from prying eyes.
  • 4pm, Brad Warren, a Let’s Encrypt Developer, will present Let’s Encrypt, a joint project between the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Akami, Cisco, the University of Michigan, and open-source developers around the world. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated Certificate Authority which anyone can use to quickly, easily, and securely set up HTTPS on their website in minutes.

Sunday, November 8

  • 11am, Alison Macrina, librarian and privacy activist and the director of the Library Freedom Project. Alison will teach basic concepts in information security, and cover tools like Tor Browser, NoScript, passphrase management, safer searching, encrypted texting and other mobile security strategies, and more.
  • 2pm, Zaki Manian from Restore the 4th will be presenting an introductory tutorial to using Tor Anonymity System on desktop and mobile computers. He will cover the Tor security model and practical application choices to make. 

Celebrate and remember Aaron, and the living hackers and whistleblowers that work hard to make the world a better place at the Aaron Swartz Day Celebration Reception on what would have been Aaron’s 29th birthday: November 7, 2015, from 6-10:00 pm.

  • Reception: 6pm-7:30pm Come mingle with the speakers and celebrate Aaron’s accomplishments.
  • Movies: 7:30-8:00pm – See scenes from “From DeadDrop to SecureDrop,” a documentary about the anonymous whistleblower submission platform that Aaron and Kevin Poulsen prototyped in 2013, and how it made its way to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, after Aaron’s death.
  • Speakers 8:00-10:00pm:
    Garrett Robinson (Lead Programmer, SecureDrop)
    Giovanni Damiola  (Open Library Project)
    Alison Macrina (Founder and Director, Library Freedom Project
    Brewster Kahle (Digital Librarian, Internet Archive)
    Cindy Cohn (Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
    Roger Dingledine (Interim Executive Director, Tor Project)
    Micah Lee (Co-founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Technologist at “The Intercept”)
    Jacob Appelbaum (Security Expert seen in Citizen Four, Wikileaks volunteer) (Appearing remotely via Jitsi over Tor)
    John Perry Barlow (EFF and Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder) and Special Guests.
    The whole thing is completely free of charge, and food and beverages are also provided, so please RSVP, so we know how much food we need.


For more information, contact:
Lisa Rein, Coordinator, Aaron Swartz Day

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Pro-Airbnb political TV ads air at rate of 100:1 as San Franciscans head to polls

For every one minute of political ads aired in favor of a contentious ballot initiative intended to further regulate Airbnb’s growing presence in the city where it is headquartered, more than 100 minutes of ads urging them to vote “no,” have aired on local San Francisco area TV stations, according to an assessment of the Internet Archive’s television archive.

Audio fingerprinting of YouTube-hosted advertising was used to identify the same ads in local station programming and cable news networks available in the region, from August 25th through October 26th.  Sample ads can be viewed here, and metadata about their occurrences can be downloaded from this page.

Proposition F, which is backed by a coalition of unions, land owners, housing advocates, and neighborhood groups, would restrict private rentals to 75 nights per year as well as enact rules that would ensure that hotel taxes are paid and city code followed. It would also allow private party lawsuits by neighbors against private renters suspected of violating the law.

The Internet Archive found just one TV ad favoring the initiative, also appeared on the Proposition F campaign website. The Archive discovered 32 instances of this ad airing on local TV stations, for a total of 16 minutes of airplay. However, the ad, which features a parody of the song “Hotel California,” by the Eagles, (the lyrics were replaced with “Hotel San Francisco,”) was recently removed from the official website because of a claim of copyright infringement.

In contrast, in our sample range, Airbnb supporters aired more than 26 hours of ads against the initiative. One example ad, which is below, claims that the initiative would “encourage neighbors to spy on each other,” and “create thousands of new lawsuits.” This ad played at least 358 times in recent weeks, for a total of 179 minutes of airtime.

Over all, according to reports filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, opponents of Proposition F have reported spending $6.5 million compared to $256,000 from organizations supporting the initiative.

Of course the ad campaigns are not just limited to television. Airbnb apologized last week after it caught flack for a series of controversial bus stations and billboard ads that critics called “passive aggressive” and “whiny,”  for complaining about how public institutions, such as libraries, spent their tax revenue-derived budgets.

But TV remains a key way that political operators try to influence voters. As Nate Ballard, a Democratic strategist recently said on a local newscast: “That’s how you win campaigns in California, on TV.”

The Internet Archive’s review of political TV ads relating to Proposition F is part of experimentation in preparation for our new Knight Foundation funded project to track political TV ads in key primary states. Stay tuned for news about our December launch.

research by Trevor von Stein






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