When the Web Loses Its Memory
As sites like Tumblr perform mass purges, archivists are fighting a losing battle to save disappearing parts of the internet
Diana poured her passionate fandom into Thorvaenn, her Tumblr account, for years. Marvel and Thor in particular became the primary focus for the GIFs she made, for her meticulous recommendations, and for the fanfiction she created involving Thor and Loki — a coupling known as “Thorki” — in various romantic situations for her 20,000-plus followers.
“My blog was super important to me and to my life,” says Diana, who asked to be identified by just her first name. “It was essentially there for me every waking moment. Any time I was bored or restless or wanted to take my mind off things, I could read something or go to one of my friends and chat about it. For as long as I can remember, I was that person, the one who was into something, who couldn’t just watch or read a thing and move on, but who had to be all deep into it.”
“I had that blog for seven years. I poured so much time into it, so much creative energy.”
Then, one day, it was all gone. On November 22, 2018, her blog was deleted without warning. Hundreds of hours of work and craft were gone in an instant. Tumblr erased the blog just before the company announced its ban on adult content, a move that affected huge parts of the site, because, well, Tumblr was home to a lot of kink. Diana maintains she didn’t post the kind of adult content the company was set on banning — defined by Tumblr as “adult content real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content [depicting] sex acts” — but Tumblr never replied to her appeal. “I had that blog for seven years,” she says. “I poured so much time into it, so much creative energy.”
As a heavily invested member of the Harry Potter sections of LiveJournal, Eve Elizabeth Moriarty had a different obsession. She clearly remembers reading a piece of fanfiction when she was about 15, shortly after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out in 2004, that took place at Sirius Black’s home after he died.