I was fortunate to contribute to a RadioLab (WNYC) episode recently about the pressure
for a “right to be forgotten” and the resulting complexities of unpublishing. RadioLab producer Molly Webster attended a meeting with a newspaper team to learn about their attempts to balance informing the public and minimizing harm.
I’m happy the human, emotional aspects of the individuals involved (the requestors AND the journalists) are gaining traction in the social conversation. As I tell Molly in the episode, I’ve finally decided the answer is our humanity. We’ve embraced a tech culture for all of its conveniences, and there are some genies you can’t put back into a bottle. What we can do, however, is learn to be more forgiving human beings—ones who acknowledge and understand everyone has a past, and that past should be placed in the proper perspective. Combined with some new considerations on the front end of the reporting process, I think we could work something out that safeguards online news content for historical purposes yet is conscious of the personal consequences that can come with the long tail of publishing. That sounds much better to me than any of the alternatives that have been presented to date.
You can access the episode here: