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The internet is (isn't) forever
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Be careful what you post online. A future employer or reporter may find that embarrassing photo or racist post and your plans for the future could be ruined.

When it comes to what you post on social media, assume the internet is forever.

When it comes to what you want to keep, assume it is not.

This week, Rolling Stone staff writer EJ Dickson wrote, “The Internet is Not Your Friend: MySpace and the Loss of Memories.” Dickson notes that MySpace has reportedly deleted a great deal of the content uploaded between 2003 and 2015.

For many baby boomers and some gen-Xers, this is not important news. Precious memories are stored in diaries and photo albums, not on third-party servers. They do worry about whatever happened to old online accounts that have long since been abandoned — with passwords long since forgotten.

But among millenials, who were “extremely online teens,” according to Dickson, “many were hard hit by the news, particularly musicians, who initially gravitated toward the platform to share and promote their own music.” Somewhere, there are people mourning the loss of photos, videos and music, sometimes created by loved ones who have passed on.

The lesson here is that anything entrusted to a third party for archiving may not be permanent. Just as our content may be used in ways we never imagined or intended, it may be deleted with little or no warning.

Globally, others are considering how to archive online news articles to preserve them for future generations. Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine takes pictures of web pages to preserve them. Forbes contributor Kalev Leetaru writes that online news reports change all of the time, especially in the first 24 hours after publication. Some disappear forever. “Thankfully, services like the Internet Archive are helping to preserve the world’s journalism for posterity and ensure that our shared global record of humankind is still around for future generations, rather than fading away into the digital memory hole.”

The contents of a Library of Congress Twitter archive will matter in the future, but the platform to preserve and manage all of this does not yet exist. Maybe the loss of a few million embarrassing photos saved to MySpace is just good housekeeping. For individuals, don’t expect that “free” internet service to care about your memories forever.