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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