How to publish on GOV.UK

Unpublishing and withdrawing ('archiving')

How and when to remove or retire content from GOV.UK.

Read the content retention and withdrawal (‘archiving’) policy to find out when content should be withdrawn or taken down.

Who can remove content

Only managing editors can remove or withdraw content from GOV.UK. If your managing editor is not available, contact GDS using the GOV.UK Support form.

Anyone with a Whitehall publisher account can discard drafts of content that’s never been published.

Unpublishing

There are 2 options for removing content: unpublishing and withdrawing (previously called ‘archiving’).

Unpublishing deletes a piece of content from GOV.UK.

To unpublish content:

  1. Select the ‘Documents’ tab in Whitehall publisher and search for your document.
  2. Click on the document you want to unpublish.
  3. Click on the ‘Withdraw or unpublish’ button.
  4. If you select ‘Unpublish: published in error’ add an ‘Alternative URL’ to avoid creating a ‘404’ error message and write a reason in the ‘Public explanation’ field.
  5. If you select ‘Unpublish: consolidated into another GOV.UK page’ you only need to add an ‘Alternative URL’.

You can only redirect to URLs on GOV.UK. You can include Markdown in the public explanation box.

‘Unpublish: consolidated into another GOV.UK page’ and redirect to an appropriate page if you’re unpublishing content that:

  • contains sensitive personal data
  • breaches copyright laws
  • includes material that users find obscene or defamatory
  • includes details of convictions - speak to your legal team to find out when it should be removed

Unpublished content will return to a ‘draft’ state in Whitehall publisher. You cannot discard drafts of unpublished content.

How withdrawing works

Withdrawing content means it’s still available at the same URL. You won’t be able to create any new versions of the content while it’s withdrawn but you can edit the public explanatory text that appears on the page.

Withdrawn publications will still appear in Google search results, so you need to add:

  • a statement or watermark inside attachments - for example ‘This publication was withdrawn on 1 January 2016’
  • ‘[Withdrawn]’ to the start of attachment titles

You need to remove attachments to edit them, then re-upload them.

You don’t need to add ‘[Withdrawn]’ to HTML attachment titles. Whitehall Publisher does it automatically.

Links to the withdrawn document from within body copy won’t be automatically removed from other pages.

To withdraw content:

  1. Select the ‘Documents’ tab in Whitehall publisher and search for your document.
  2. Click on the document you want to unpublish.
  3. Click on the ‘Withdraw or unpublish’ button.
  4. Always leave a reason in the ‘Public explanation’ field explaining why you’re withdrawing the document. You can include Markdown and provide users with a link to a new page or document.

The withdrawn document will still appear external search engine results but it will not appear in internal site search results. If the withdrawn document is featured on your organisation page, it will continue to be listed there until it’s un-featured.

A withdrawn document will not be visible in:

  • document collections it is part of
  • related document sections on the public site, eg an organisation’s ‘Documents’ section
  • the lists of policies, announcements, etc, on a person’s profile page
  • specialist browse
  • atom feeds
  • govdelivery notifications

Withdrawn content will show as ‘withdrawn’ in Whitehall publisher.

Closed organisations

If an organisation closes, only withdraw material that’s no longer relevant. Examples of items that shouldn’t be withdrawn are:

  • guidance that’s still useful about things people can still do (consider reassigning this to the new organisation if there is one)
  • transparency data
  • freedom of information responses

How to unwithdraw content

If you withdraw a piece of content by mistake, you can ‘unwithdraw’ it. Only managing editors can do this.

To unwithdraw content:

  1. Select the ‘Documents’ tab in Whitehall publisher and search for your document.
  2. Click on the document you want to unwithdraw.
  3. Click on the ‘Unwithdraw’ button.
  4. This will create a new edition of the content and immediately publish it.

Changing URLs

URLs are automatically created from the page title when you publish the page and can only be changed by a developer. This will only be done in exceptional circumstances.