Our Director Caroline Skipsey comments on the news today that the Conservative Party is removing content from its online archives.

The UK’s Conservative party are in the news today for removing older policy papers, speeches and videos. The online world holds such a risk to reputation that reminders of previous speeches made are now being (allegedly) removed from online sources.
The internet has a long memory and it’s not just political parties that are worried about previous content being used against them.

The Conservative party has started removing videos from the ‘WebCameron’ YouTube channel. These video are being removed because they depict Cameron in his pre Prime Minister years making campaign promises that he has since failed to keep. On the surface this seems to be a smart move; government initiatives such as the bedroom tax are angering voters and the party does not want the public reminded of how promises have been broken. However has it really been such a smart move?

The thing about removal of your own content that contradicts your current position is that it draws further attention to the previous content. Currently there are three articles features on  the first page of Google results for the term “conservative party”, all of with negative headlines such as “party slammed for deleting its internet history”. News sources would not care nearly as much about the content of these videos and speeches if the party had simply left them alone. They may have been quoted once or twice by the odd pundit of course, but people tend to have very short memories. By removing them, the Conservatives are drawing attention to them; consequently they are drawing attention to the very thing they wanted to erase from digital history; their own reversal of message.

That is why when it comes to removing content you have put up yourself, you have to be extremely careful, as the removal can pose a greater risk to online reputation than simply leaving it alone ever could. The risks of removal have to be weighed up against the risks of simply leaving it be. Will people notice the removal, will it draw attention? Well, yes, it does – particularly if a Government is doing so.

But are they really doing anything so bad? The content was on their own platform/website and they’re under no legal obligation to have the records publicly available. News stories from 10-12 years ago, still cause companies and individuals issues today. How does content be removed from the search results if you don’t own that content?

It’s highly likely that the Conservative party next week will be placing content and news stories or even stunts (another forgotten child in a pub?) to replace the articles that are currently ranking highly.

Perhaps the reasons that the video and speeches have been removed are purely from a vanity purpose? It has always been said that becoming Prime Minister ages you and speeches made when Mr Cameron was new to the job might not be as polished as they are today.

Content should be fresh, so if you’re a company, brand or individual – I’d advise to act as the Conservative party have acted and remove any irrelevant or negative content.