A mirror is a copy of a website that is kept up-to-date automatically. This can be done straightforwardly with well established and robust software.
This is way that software was distributed in the 1980s and 1990s. Before Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web, it was much more complicated to access information that people had made available on the Internet. There were indexes, but they too were clumsy to use. Having a collection with a lot of software from different sources in one place made it much easier for people to access it and keep it up-to-date on their own computers. Even using the Web, these archives are nowadays still the standard way of distributing software and are called app stores or distributions, such as the Ubuntu Linux distribution.
In the late 1990s, one of the authors of this site used mirroring software to implement a library of academic research papers in his subject.
Using the hardware and data resources behind www.IStopBrexit.info, it would be straightforward for us to mirror sites used for the pro-EU campaign.
There are already many websites that were set up to share campaign materials. However, these are ineffective, largely because no-one else knows that they are there. So the situation is similar to the one with software before the mirroring archives were set up.
Our proposal is not to start yet another such site, or to force them all on to one big site. In fact, we do not necessarily intend to make our copy publicly available.
What we are offering is the infrastructure to make a private copy of other sites, which could then be used in various ways:
If all the materials are together on the same machine then it is much easier and faster to use local software tools on that machine to search and index it.
The index would then be published (on our site or elsewhere), with links to its original location (rather than to the copy on our site).
In its early days, Yahoo provided a service of this kind.
However, we would need someone else to join our team to do the editorial work needed to compile this index.
The national People’s Vote campaign has requested that local groups send their leaflets and other campaign materials in, so that they can be fact-checked. This is to avoid the embarrassment to our cause of having possibly libellous, unsubstantiated, inaccurate or misleading claims are made by local campaigns.
Having all of this material automatically copied to one place would make this process much simpler.
Local campaigners would only need to place their materials on (a possibly private part of) their own websites, instead of remembering to “submit it”.
The fact checkers would be automatically notified of what is new. They would be able to see it much more straightforwardly. We could provide simple tools to facilitate feedback.
Whatever the outcome of our struggle, there is no doubt that we are living in interesting times.
Historians will want to study this period and will need copies of as much primary material as possible.
However, most of the websites in the campaign are hosted on “free” sites. Big companies provide such hosting, not out of the kindness of their hearts, but so that they can amass personal information for advertising. (“If it’s free, you’re the product, not the customer.”)
When the struggle is over (either way), these sites will be abandoned. Very probably the material on them will be lost, or at best extremely very difficult to retrieve.
Having it copied to a single place will ensure that a permanent archive is kept. We will of course deposit this archive for future public use in a suitable national library.