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-Here's an idea-- everybody has a right to be forgotten.
Let's say tomorrow you enter and win a hot dog eating contest.
You just house the competition-- dog after dog
you are an unstoppable frank mangler.
People are so impressed they take out their phones,
they make videos, everything.
And then 10 years from now, after many considered life choices,
including becoming a serious vegetarian,
you're applying for a job at PETA.
Except, right there on YouTube for all to see,
your face, the Hot Dogalypse, Harmageddon.
Thank you for your resume, we'll be in touch.
Or far more realistically, though hopefully unlikely,
let's say you go bankrupt.
A bunch of years pass, you get back on your feet-- steady job,
no debt-- feeling good, you want to buy a house.
You go to the bank and the lending agent simply
Googles your name, bankruptcy.
And there you are, years ago on some public record-- fiscal
pants around your fiscal ankles.
You are a risk, and so no loan.
In both of these situations the internet's impeccable memory
could lead to trouble.
But at this point you might be asking
who is going to Google, really, for a loan?
-Human torch was denied a bank loan.
-Well, let's talk actualities.
Mario Costeja Gonzales from Spain had lots of debt
in the '90s-- so much so that his house was foreclosed upon.
A newspaper then reported on the foreclosure.
Costeja Gonzalez paid his debts, and
while his financial troubles disappeared,
that newspaper report did not.
It even got digitized and put on the internet.
A simple Google search brought it right up.
He asked the newspaper to take it down and they wouldn't.
He asked Google Spain to remove it
and they said he had to talk to Google US.
The whole thing ended up in the Spanish courts,
who then took it to the highest EU court, who
said that Google has to unindex those search results.
They point to things which are no longer useful or noteworthy,
and so the European Court of Justice
ruled that Google must comply with Costeja Gonzalez's request
and provide similar functionality for others.
If there is public information about private citizens indexed
by search engines and those private citizens
want that public information gone, gone.
And so begins the discussion of the right
to be forgotten-- well, sort of.
Much older, and not specifically internet, French and Italian
laws provide what is called a right of oblivion,
where a convict can block printing of details regarding
their misdeeds after they have paid their debt to society.
This emphasis on personal privacy
might seem extreme to many Americans, which
we'll talk about in a second, but it
does have a foot in history.
Viktor Meyer-Schonberger, show the author of Delete:
The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age,
talked to The New Yorker about how
personal information collected innocently
by European cities in the early 20th century
was used by the Nazis to track people down
by religion and ethnicity.
He suggests that Europe's past inspires
a suspicion towards permanent comprehensive records,
that their attitude towards collecting and storing
personal data is a careful one.
Google's head counsel agrees that this careful attitude
is quote, a European concept, and given
that, the right to be forgotten needs limiting, he says.
Which it is limited-- to Europe.
Currently, if Google unindexes a search results from Google.es
or .fr or .de at the request of a European citizen,
that search result is still indexed on Google.com.
The EU courts are suggesting, but ultimately can't
force Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing--
who are also unindexing search results in the EU
to adopt the right to be forgotten worldwide.
Google has even basically said, um, yeah, no,
that's not going to happen.
Why would they say that?
Well, there are three big concerns,
and here is where we get to some of the America stuff.
One, does this encroach on the freedom of speech?
Bloggers, journalists, publishers--
they should be able to write about whatever they want,
even if the people it's about aren't super psyched about it.
Concern two, same issue, different angle--
is this censorship?
If someone can zap stuff about them that they don't like out
of existence, that seems bad.
Costeja Gonzales himself has said,
I support freedom of expression and do not defend censorship.
What I did was fight for the right to request
deletion of data that violates the honor, dignity,
and reputation of individuals.
The EU commission even wrote that the right to be forgotten
isn't about making prominent people less prominent
or criminals less criminal.
In other words, freedom of expression
and from censorship and the right to be forgotten
are not mutually exclusive.
NNG Andrade has suggested reconsidering the right
to be forgotten as the right to be different from oneself.
It's not about censorship as much
as it's about how perfect memory can sometimes
be an enemy of the future.
Imagining people complexly through the network
is already tough.
We're different people in different places
at different times.
Maybe the right to be forgotten prevents becoming
unfairly chained to your past.
Which brings us to concern number three--
does this allow the rewriting of history?
We've argued on Idea Channel before that even the smallest
bit of seeming ephemera could hold
great historical significance.
Now, are we saying that some of it should just get axed?
-Here's Johnny.
-But Google's not deleting things,
they're unindexing search results.
So maybe the bigger question is whether people
should be allowed to bury or disconnect from their own past.
That is a big question.
I see a related anxiety on social media
when people habitually write posts and then delete
them not long after.
There are lots of reasons you might do this.
Maybe you post something you instantly regret
or maybe you write something inflammatory
with every intention of deleting it immediately,
sort of like internet shouting into a pillow.
Or so you have a high follower count with not much content,
but some people post and delete because having
a persistent publicly available self
document is terrifying or embarrassing or just weird.
I've heard some people refer to this as delete culture.
And developers, at least, are responding to this desire
to be forgotten-- to always already be forgotten,
to have never been remembered by the internet.
Apps like Snapchat, Yik Yak, Secret, Whisper,
and a surprising number of others-- so many sources
in the doobly-doo are premised on impermanence, anonymity,
or both.
Of course, as some of us learned the hard way with Snapchat,
impermanence doesn't necessarily equate with deletion.
And as for the others, time will tell exactly how anonymous
they really are.
Personally, I don't post anything on Yik Yak
that I wouldn't say to my own mother.
Anyway, the right to be forgotten,
delete culture, these apps-- they all
speak to the perceived, though possibly
actual, effective permanence and influence of the internet.
Many people feel like if they put themselves on it
or if their selves end up on it, it
will become monumentalized-- it will tower over,
transcend some self that they hope eventually to become.
Reputation.com's founder sees it as unfair
that Disney or Fox or Viacom can handily
have their media scrubbed from Google's search index
but such a thing is nearly unthinkable
for a private citizen's public data,
even if that public data is out of date.
The question is whether private citizens do have the same right
to control their public data as media empires do
over their copyrighted material.
Some people say yes.
Some people say all people do and that the right
to be forgotten is and should be considered
nothing short of a universal right, a human right.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of and potential damage
caused by enforcing such a right will be determined by the way
it is implemented and how people use it or abuse it.
But before we get to that point, it's
worth reasoning out what it means
to support such a right to be-- I
just completely lost my train of thought.
Um-- What were we talking about?
What do you guys think?
Does everyone have a right to be forgotten?
Let us know in the comments and don't forget to subscribe.
Subjectivity in the my journalism?
It's more likely than you'd think.
Let's see what you guys had to say about objectivity
journalism and cereal.
First things first-- office hours
are this weekend on Saturday, February 7,
at the IBM Pavilion, 590 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York.
Come and hang out.
We're going to be there from one to three.
There's no plan-- just going to chill, have a conversation,
meet each other.
I'm really excited.
There's no plan of where I will be
since it is a private public space, so we can't really
reserve anything but if you don't see me just look
for my super bright orange backpack.
I will have this with me and you can see it from space,
so I should be pretty easy to find.
Second order of business-- next week's
episode is about the Legend of Korra finale.
So if you haven't seen it, you can.
You don't necessarily have to watch
it to understand what we're going to talk about,
but having the background wouldn't
hurt-- Legend of Korra, Book 4.
It's really good anyway so you should just watch it.
OK, finally on to comments.
Joe Hansen from It's OK to be Smart left a comment saying
that he was shocked we didn't get to Jay Rosen's
idea of the view from nowhere-- this idea that journalists are
able to view the world from nowhere,
from a place that is free of ideology, free of background
information, which is a place that doesn't really exist.
And Joe goes on to talk about the really important idea
of authority and how audiences give authority to journalists
and news networks and broadcasters,
and there is the question of why we do that and whether or not
we are maybe about to stop.
And I think that this comment is so, so great.
I wrote a pretty long response to it
and then there was a great conversation that followed.
So links to this one and the rest in the doobly-doo.
Matolryu from the subreddit hits
on the really important, uh, factor
of entertainment in journalism.
And Googolplex Byte also sort of hits on this same thing
by saying that journalism can't be objective
because objectivity doesn't sell.
And this is a big thing that I think about all the time--
whether or not journalism should or should not be competing
on the level of entertainment.
I feel like a lot of times it feels like it has to-- I don't
know that that's true.
And related to this idea, jakers457
seems to suggest that ideally, the news would just
be explanations of things that have happened--
just pure information.
And absent the problem of even the gathering
of information being objective, which, you know, there's
great conversation about whether or not
that's a thing that's even possible,
right-- it's like is just the easy and simple relaying
of information a thing that people will tune into?
I'm skeptical-- skeptical face.
Rebek Jeris and a couple of other people
said if I am presenting one side of an argument
like it's the truth and then moving on
with a clear conscience, how are they to trust me?
And my response to that is don't.
If there is one thing that I would hope you would take away
from Idea Channel, it's that if there
is a face on a screen telling you things,
you should ask questions about it.
Don't take what it's saying at its own face value.
You need to ask questions about everything.
Don't trust Idea Channel-- even a little.
Just don't.
Cadwell Turnbull, Krista Duggin, Kyle Sweeney, Aster Fliers
have all recommended awesome additional reading materials
on these topics.
They also all have great names.
Included in there is Hank Green's medium piece
about his experience interacting with legacy media, which
is just a-- a-- love it-- legacy media.
And finally, Kayla Haffley brings up the missing component
of judgment-- that ideally, objective journalism would
lack any kind of judgment.
And I keep going back to this idea of entertainment
masquerading as journalism, and I
think that the source of a lot of that entertainment
is when those news broadcasters and journalists leverage
some kind of judgment because drama is profitable and yeah,
I think that this is definitely part of this conversation.
This week's episode was brought to you
by the hard work of these frank manglers.
We have a Facebook, an IRC, and the subreddit links
in the doobly-doo.
And the Tweets of the week come from Sena Bryer, who
points towards me and Kate Beaton
accidentally collaborating to make the Twitter timeline
do a thing and Jacobonaut, who points us
towards savedbythebellhooks.tublr.com.
You should read it so that we have something
to talk about on Saturday.
Oh, and one more thing-- so we built out the Idea Channel
set in order to be able to do bigger and more impressive
things, but if you look over here
it's actually really boring and not fun to stand in front of
or look at.
So I was thinking it might be nice
if you guys were to send us records to put on the wall
because I would love to have something that's not just
my records, my musical taste.
So we have PO box for a very short amount of time.
It will expire.
There's info in the doobly-doo, including some restrictions
and some rules for sending us things, so make sure
you check those out.
But if you want to send us records and/or record covers
to maybe put on the Idea Channel set to be shown on camera
I would love that.
I would really love that.
And of course, you will get credit somehow, somewhere.
We'll figure it out.
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Do You Have the Right to Be Forgotten? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

1618 Folder Collection
Karen Chan published on November 15, 2015
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