Do we have a “Right to be forgotten”?

Hello dear reader, I hope you had a happy Halloweekend. In the spirit of that lovely and most debauched time at Washington State University, Pullman, I’m going to start off this article with a spooky image for you to ponder. Imagine there are nude photos of me on the internet and they can be googled. Yes, I’m serious. I want you to picture my fleshy and horrid bulb of a body.

Have you vomited or killed yourself yet? No. Ok cool.

You see, in America. Once pictures like that are on the World Wide Web, they’re there forever. However, Europe is a different story. In May of 2014, the website Tech Dirt reported on the European Union’s intent to push forward with bestowing upon its residents a right to be forgotten. Basically, if there’s something on the internet you don’t want people to know about you, you can file a request with a US company that operates search engines in Europe and have the offending content removed. At least, that’s how it is supposed to work, in theory.

On Halloween, while I was talking to a woman who later made the terrible decision to spend the evening with me (Worst. Night. Ever.). The Washington Post reported on a request they received from a European Pianist to remove a critical review about one of his performances from their website. According to Dejan Lazic, the review has damaged his career for years, as it is one of the top results when you search his name on Google. This is utterly fascinating and scary.

I have no problem with someone being able to have the power to force a company to remove certain things that could harm their reputation. But the original wording from the European Union is just too vague and badly in need of refinement and some narrow tailoring.

Obviously, something like this could be good and could solve a lot of problems in the United States. If Americans had a “Right to be Forgotten”, Hope Witsell of Sundance, Florida would still be alive, fresh faced and ready to take on the challenges the world had waiting for her.

But unfortunately, we don’t. As a result, when Hope impulsively sent a nude photo of herself to a boy in 2009 in hopes of gaining his attention, it circulated like crazy online. The incessant bullying she then endured drove her to suicide. She certainly had a right to be forgotten.

On the other side of the coin though, some individuals don’t. One of them being Judge William A. Adams of Texas. In 2011, his daughter posted a video online where his “Honor” beat her terribly. If Americans had a broadly tailored right to be forgotten like our European counterparts have, this scumbag could have that scrubbed from Google at any time. I don’t want that.

And neither should you dear reader. Yes, people should have the means to purge unflattering things like nude photographs of themselves from the internet, but, we must not be too broad in what we allow people to have the ability to remove. Otherwise, we will never see anyone for who they really are, myself included.

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