The year is 1999. I was in Kindergarten and was absolutely exhausted after my yummy milk and cookies. With the addition of rigorous games of tag and “escape-the-ewwy-girls” before hand, my stomach started to bubble in what could be called a disaster waiting to happen. In my potty scuttle, I went to ask the teacher to use the restroom. Without skipping a beat, I called her “mom.” An uproar of unforgiving children accompanied me to the restroom. Over time, they seemed to forget about it. Nevertheless, if someone would mention a similar incident, they would remember mine as well. Oh how I wish that would go away.
So what was the point of this nightmarish anecdote?
My right to be forgotten that is.
The year is now 2014 and little primary school incidents are not the concern. The concern now is removing the material that we do not want to be remembered that lies on the internet. On May 13, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that we have the “right to be forgotten” on the internet. What is this exactly? The ruling states that people have the right to remove links found on search engines that serve as inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive in the view of the violated. Essentially, it’s trying to erase the past. It would be like me accessing my childhood classmate’s minds and removing those connections that lead to that horrendous occasion. Notice, however, that this is only removing links from search queues and not the data itself. So in other words, the classmates could look diligently and carefully through his or her mind leading them to the information again. Crap.
Nevertheless, do we have the right to be forgotten here in America?
Of course, but it’s not going to be easy.
A famous incident followed after the 2013 Superbowl half-time show. Beyonce performed amazingly, flaunting her thang away in a spectacular showcase. Despite that, it produced unflattering photos of her and were posted all over the internet, specifically BuzzFeed. According to the Huffington Post, the publicist asked for the photos to be taken down. As defined by copyright, the work belongs to the people who created it. It also goes on the lines of the first amendment; articles don’t have any legal obligations to unpublished the work if it’s true information. Unless he took it himself or this is of false nature than there is no way he can legally take it down. If this is from a private setting or of harmful manner, then it would be different. Yet, the Superbowl is kind of a big public event. This incident also caused the photos to spread like wild fire because of the Streisand effect. In other words, something that spreads because of the desire to have it removed. The large-scale mainly pertains for people of fame, yet it still can happen in minor forms for anyone.
So this brings me to the next point.
Can we actually be forgotten?
In the article The Web Means the End of Forgetting by Jefferey Rosen, it specifies how “25 billion pieces of content each month [is shared]” and “[an] average user creates 70 pieces…a month.” that’s insane! Trying to remove certain information is like trying to fish for all the dolphins in the world to remove them from existence. You’re not going to get anywhere unless have a lot more nets and boats. Even if you have the resources, it could continue reproducing rapidly. The big problem is not necessarily to be forgotten, but instead to be forgiven. Rosen then explains how Viktor Mayer-Schönberger says that “without some form of forgetting, forgiving becomes a difficult undertaking.” Following the truism “forgive and forget,” you can’t help but agree. If I post a drunkard picture of me on the internet and it is shared all over. There is no way people can forgive me about that behavior unless they can forget it even happened. By seeing that information over and over again, you can’t really be forgiven. This goes along the lines with incidents that occur with institutions reacting to profound content. The examples that Rosen began with are perfect subjects.
Even though I don’t necessiarly agree with how some of the information is handled, I do know that a right is a right, but not a solution.