Takedown requests, and the right to privacy

Two weeks I got an email from a company asking me to remove part of an old blog post that they found unfavorable. They could persuade, guilt-trip, or even pay me to take it down, but if I chose not to comply, there was legally nothing they could do about it. We call that free speech.

Some people want the legal right to order online takedowns if they feel that the content violates their privacy. Those advocating for “The Right to be Forgotten” don’t want their dirty laundry online. Who would?

But that sword cuts both ways.

The same right that allows you to cover up your old DUI in the local newspaper grants the worst kind of people to erase all traces of serious issues. Wouldn’t you want to know if you are moving next door to a sex-offender? Today you can.

On the other end of the spectrum, how would you like to live in a world where anybody with a different opinion than yours could demand the takedown of your online content?

If we are to legislate “the right to be forgotten,” then somebody has to draw a line where free speech ends and privacy starts. Who should decide where to draw the line? Will a content author risk the courtroom costs to defend against a takedown request that is clearly over the line? If not, then is there really a line at all? (This is starting to sound like the 29 billion dollar patent troll problem we have)

I get it. Memories fade over time, people change, and nobody deserves to have their old selves constantly standing in the way of their future. But I think there are better ways to solve those problems than unraveling our fundamental human rights.

You can find more of my thoughts on the topic here: http://www.bryanbraun.com/2011/08/21/the-fall-of-internet-privacy