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Calling For Back Up


At one time or another, most organizations have been “under the gun” to secure reliable backups of their websites and online presence. Few of those organizations, however, have been under an actual gun. The Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) was – and Archive-It™ was ready with backup.

Known across Ukraine for their news reports exposing governmental corruption, the CCIJ reporters, editors and staff kept the cameras rolling when, on March 1, 2014, Russian troops began seizing control of the Crimean peninsula. It wasn’t long before about 30 masked and hooded gunmen showed up at the journalists’ offices on a city street in the regional capital of Simferopol. The gunmen smashed windows and barged their way in, confiscating computers, files and equipment.

“It wasn’t a mistake that [this group] was targeted” by the Russian troops, said David E. Kaplan, executive director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, in a March 2014 radio interview with WNYC in New York City.

Claiming that the CCIJ was not a source of “true information,” the gunman’s leader told them that henceforth, the journalists would be working with members of “The Crimean Front” to produce news reports.

“We will try to agree on the correct truthful coverage of events,” the armed man told the reporters as others seized computers, hard drives, and files. The CCIJ managed to alert Kaplan to what had happened, and Kaplan made contact with the San Francisco-based Internet Archive.

With the CCIJ’s informational legacy in hostile hands, the Internet Archive put Archive-It to work quickly and quietly. Within hours, the entire live website of the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism had been archived safely out of reach of the gunmen who stormed the CCIJ offices.

“They have the best people in the world to archive and back up sites,” Kaplan said of the Internet Archive. “We now have a complete digital record of what this gutsy, front-line Center for Investigative Journalism has done in Crimea. We have digitally archived their entire record of publishing.”

When the investigative journalism produced by the Crimean reporters was taken hostage, Archive-It was the digital special agent that was able to go in and rescue the data. Kaplan said he and other members of the Global Investigative Journalism Network now are discussing taking steps to preserve other news websites, before a crisis occurs.

“Indeed, this is very much on our minds,” said Kaplan “We would like to work with the Internet Archive to get them all backed up and then go forward.”

Read more and see the archive of the Ukrainian conflict here.

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