Deleting Unfortunate Content? The Internets are Permanent

If you hit publish, have every expectation that your work will never die – especially if you’d rather that it did.

Wisebread – A Case in Point

Just the other day, a group blog that I subscribe to, Wisebread, posted an article about a photographer’s business model. Essentially, one of the writers had paid for professional photography and then – despite the terms of the agreement – made copies of the prints. Like copying and sharing music files, this is not actually legal.

Unsurprisingly, this caused a storm of comments, with some people agreeing that the business model is unsustainable and verges on the unethical, and others stating that breaking the law is immoral.

By the time I got there, the post had been removed from the archives, (the comments are still there) and replaced with a note to that effect. But I’ve still read it, because it was delivered to my feed before it had been deleted (I had accessed my feed, but not that post, earlier).

I’ve got a copy of it kept as new in my feed reader now. And I imagine that that it will have been delivered to at least some email subscribers, who may well have kept the post. It’s been used as inspiration for other posts on other blogs.

What Does This Mean?

The lesson here is not whether or not what was described in the post was fair and reasonable, but that if you publish something, then you should work on the basis that someone somewhere will have kept a copy. If you publish something and with the benefit of hindsight, realise that you shouldn’t have for whatever reason, by all means, take it down, retract it, write an apology, but don’t think that you can make it disappear.

You will make mistakes – publish things too early, mess up the formatting, have bad spelling – and people will see them. I don’t think that’s too much of a problem, correct it, or not as you please.

If you later regret the content of your work, then by all means delete it – especially if you are worried about legal implications. There’s no need to make matters any worse by leaving it up, but don’t assume that it’ll be as if it never happened.

Much like you can’t un-say things, you can’t un-post them either.

6 Responses to “Deleting Unfortunate Content? The Internets are Permanent”

  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    Ironically, I didn’t actually read the real post, since Wisebread is a site I visit a couple times a week but don’t subscribe to. But I figured out most of it from the comments… 🙂

  2. Pinyo says:

    Mrs. Micah – Fancy seeing you here. I guess we can’t hide from the Internet most prolific commenter for too long.

    Ah, I see… Plonkee linked to you 🙂

  3. plonkee says:

    Well, that’s how I found out about the controversy in the first place – I then came across the original post on my reader.

  4. paidtwice says:

    I don’t want to hide from Mrs. Micah! 🙂

    Plonkee, great post. And so true! I actually didn’t know the post was removed to begin with – I had only read it in my reader, and then read Mrs. Micah’s post and learned lol.

    There’s still a copy of a post of mine floating around that basically says… “Main points, blah blah blah, finish with link to post reacting to.” Oops to hitting publish accidentally 🙂

  5. mariam says:

    What about the Google cache? I know Google likes blogs and I heard they are fast to index.

    I never had any reason to use Google to review a blog before but I did check an expired job posting just to see what the requirements were and sure enough, I found it…

  6. Pinyo says:

    @Mariam – Good to see you here 🙂

    Oh, Google Cache saved me more than once — i.e., overwritten post by accident, lost old codes, etc. It comes in handy many times.