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Internet Archive Removes Evidence That Companies Sold Stalkerware, But Not ISIS Propaganda

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Kyle Perisic Contributor

Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” has removed webpage archives of a software company that sells malware to spy on phones and computers, Vice Motherboard reported Tuesday.

Wayback Machine removed webpage archives of FlexiSpy’s website. However, it has been lacking in its ability to prevent radical Islamic terrorist propaganda from using its site to bypass other websites removing their content, The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on May 16.

FlexiSpy malware software can be downloaded on mobile or desktop devices to spy on devices — including viewing emails, text messages, users’ locations, intercepting phone calls, and remotely turning on a device’s microphone and camera. The company is based in Thailand and was founded by Atir Raihan, Vice Motherboard reported in April 2017. The site was registered, according to WhoIs, by Christian Hutchison of FlexiSpy, LTD, in Seychelles — a small island off the coast of Somalia.

The website’s banner claimed in a 2009 archive it can “reveal all with the worlds most powerful spyphone” to find out if someone is “keeping secrets from you.” FlexiSpy’s new website has since removed that banner in favor of a less tabloid-like home page.

When a FlexiSpy.com URL is put into the archive, the Wayback Machine says, “Sorry. This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine.” Internet Archive, or Archive.org, has a policy that allows them to remove some archived pages. (RELATED: ISIS Uses Internet Archives To Spread Propaganda, Report Finds)

“While we collect publicly available Internet documents, sometimes authors and publishers express a desire for their documents not to be included in the Collections (by tagging a file for robot exclusion or by contacting us or the original crawler group),” according to the Internet Archive’s terms of use. “If the author or publisher of some part of the Archive does not want his or her work in our Collections, then we may remove that portion of the Collections without notice.”

It’s unclear why Internet Archive removed FlexiSpy’s archives and FlexiSpy claimed in a May 14 tweet that it reached out to Internet Archive to remove the content.

“For the Internet Archive to remove something from its web archive, there must have been legal pressure involved,” Michael Nelson, a computer science researcher at Old Dominion University, told Vice Motherboard in an email.

After several Motherboard articles about the suspicious company, FlexiSpy lashed out to the criticism that its content was purged from the Wayback Machine. FlexiSpy said that a Vice reporter was “acting like an obsessed pest,” and asked “to respect our right to have content removed,” in the May 14 tweet.

FlexiSpy accused Vice Motherboard of being “loud, self-righteous, virtue signaling, SJW media,” in a Jan. 25 blog. At no point does the blogger rebut the claims of the Vice articles. Instead the stalkerware company posed a hypothetical “thought experiment” that accused a Vice reporter of being a “known associate of rapists and cyber criminals.”

FlexiSpy frequently lashes out on Twitter towards critics. In one case it accused a reporter of acting like a “stalker” for reaching out for comment in another May 14 tweet.

The Wayback Machine won’t archive FlexiSpy.com, however, other archiving sites like Archive.is will.

Archiving is a tool used by many journalists to uncover websites’ history that they might have tried to hide by taking screenshots of the webpage and storing it online.

For example, internet archives resurfaced in April showing that liberal MSNBC contributor Joy Reid wrote jokes about homosexuals in February 2007. At first Reid said the posts were fabricated, but the Wayback Machine found no evidence of that. Reid later admitted to writing the posts and apologized for it.

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