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I run a small blog about both the academic and professional aspects of my industry as I both teach a course at the university I am attending as well as work in the industry full time. The blog answers viewer questions and has even made some changes to core industry values which has boosted productivity and efficiency in some schools, and jobs.

One of my posts answered a question that required extensive research and would be unbelievable without my sources. This post is almost a year old and the link that was most important to my reasoning and proof of concept is not longer active.

I am faced with two choices:

  1. Remove the post all together because most of the credibility was in that link.
  2. Leave the post up without the proper accreditation to my research.

This is one of my most popular posts that effects both the academic and professional aspects of my industry and I have no way of contacting the original owner of the website that was removed.

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    Could you say a little bit more about what this "source" was and what kind of information it contained? The link really had no information whatsoever that pointed to a specific person that you could track down? If not, I'm wondering in what sense it was reliable in the first place. – Pete L. Clark Aug 1 '15 at 23:32
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    If you cannot find any other material that supports your post, then you must consider the possibility that you have staked your reputation on analysis rooted in an urban legend. You can't believe everything you read online. You might want to consider not removal but retraction and an apology to your readers who trusted you to properly vet your sources. – Ben Voigt Aug 2 '15 at 18:30
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    Be honest with your readers. Put in a prologue explaining the situation. – aparente001 Aug 2 '15 at 21:32
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    Get a link from the wayback machine; try to contact the author(s) for clarification or permission to host the content yourself. – vonbrand Aug 5 '15 at 20:23
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    @BenVoigt While I agree that honesty is a good strategy (saying the link has now disappeared is probably the best), your suggestion of apologising to the readers is taking a very aggressive stance against the OP, which nothing in the post suggests is justified. The site may have been taken down for perfectly innocent reasons. I must say I found your insinuation against the OP surprising and, while not impossible, a pure worst case assumption. Too often, discussions of unfashionable/undesirable topics does not find many replicators on the web and only reemerge after renewed interest. – Captain Emacs Mar 5 '16 at 17:39
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If the page was up for a while, you can probably obtain a copy via the Internet Archive. Once you've got that cached version, you can host it yourself, with appropriate attribution (i.e., the fact that the original source is missing, its original location and authorship, time that the snapshot was taken by the Internet Archive, etc.)

This could be a problem from a copyright perspective, but if the original material truly is abandoned, then you've got nothing to worry about. If the owner does contact you, then either they'll likely be willing to post a copy (or its equivalent) again, obviating your need to host your own copy. Only in the rather unlikely case they both want the material taken down and are unwilling to repost it themselves will you lose the source.

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    The problem of redistributing someone else's copyrighted work is moral as well as legal. In effect they have retracted their statements, publicly acting as if the author still makes those statements is problematic at best. Of course, this highlights the problem with relying on unpublished unreviewed sources. – Ben Voigt Aug 2 '15 at 18:22
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    @BenVoigt I would agree with you if it were the case that the original source actually gave some indication that the original material was retracted. With internet sources, however, retraction is far less likely than simply having a page vanish (or move to an unfindable location) through neglect. Thus, I would hold that it is reasonable to presume neglect (especially when the original author is difficult or impossible to contact) unless there is information that would cause one to believe otherwise. – jakebeal Aug 2 '15 at 18:57
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    Once you've got that cached version, you can host it yourself — Or you can just, you know, link to the copy on the Internet Archive. (But I recommend caching your own private copy, in case the Archived version disappears.) – JeffE Mar 5 '16 at 20:53
  • In effect they have retracted their statements — Sorry, ain't no such thing. They said it. – JeffE Mar 5 '16 at 20:54
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In addition to the Wayback Machine mentioned by Jake (or other mirrors), you could try to have a look at the WHOIS history to find the original owner's contact information. You might also be interested in having a look at how Wikipedia deals with dead links. To prevent future occurrences of this issue, you could automatically mirror all pages your website points to or use some mirroring services such as perma.cc (FYI What percentage of links posted in published articles are dead?).

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