In George Orwell’s book “1984,” the government changes history by editing newspapers and encyclopedias to exclude people, places and things they no longer approve of.
And back just a few years ago one of the major criticisms of the Communist system was its continual rewriting of history. It was not unusual for famous people to be edited out of photographs, when they fell out of favor.
Now there are efforts being made to edit the internet so as to change history itself.
For example, in the European Union if you don’t like what a newspaper or web site publishes about you, you can have the material changed or actually deleted.
So if today a web site reports you were involved in an automobile accident, five years from now you can demand the material be removed, and suddenly history is changed: there could be no record of the accident, anywhere.
In the United States there are instances where books have been published but then publisher was forced to make changes. So if you have copies of both books, which one is the “real” version?
A few years ago, Barnes and Noble, the owner of the Nook e-reader accidentally replaced all examples of the word “kindle,” as in “kindle a fire” with the word “nook” in the book “War and Peace.”
That one’s perhaps a silly mistake, but if we have several editions of electronic files, books or documents, someone could make malicious but subtle changes, and how would you know which version is the true one?
And more and more frequently, paper copies no longer exist, unless you print them from easily changed electronic files.
Even scarier, numerous psychological experiments continue to show how easily someone can be convinced something they really, really think is true, isn’t.
Years ago we were told the Internet was going to provide information to the world. Unless, of course, that fact has been erased from Internet memory. Then it never happened.
I’m Larry Burriss.