The right to be forgotten: is it ours?

Hello readers! It’s time for another post. This post will be addressing the question: do we have the right to be forgotten? We have been discussing this question in class and it has led to some interesting conversations.

Essentially, the right to be forgotten is the right to have information about us removed from the Internet or not used online (things can be deleted, yes, but they are never truly gone once posted online). So here is where my discussion starts: is the right to be forgotten a right that is ours or not?

At first thought, I wanted to say, “of course it’s our right! Why wouldn’t it be?” but then it got me to thinking, it isn’t necessarily our information to own. Say you do an interview with a paper and it gets published online. Is that your information or the newspaper’s? Or say you are arrested for a minor charge and an short article is written about you. Can you ask the news company to take down the article since it was your action or not since it is the journalist’s words? Once thinking in terms of this, I started to change my mind.

That is the tricky part about this question: ownership. In my opinion, if you choose to post a picture or blog post or someone posts an article or information about you, then you do not own the information in either case. For the first case, you willingly share that information online, knowing the possible consequences, therefore you gave the website the ownership. For the latter, the article written or website that chose to post the information involving you has the rights to that post or article. It is them who did the work to write it and/or post it so it is they who owns it.

Another thing I thought of involving this question was accountability. I do not think we have the right to ask websites to remove our pictures or information that was willingly shared because, like I mentioned earlier, the potential consequences are known before posting anything online. Thus, if you change your mind later, that is simply a consequence you will have to live with.

If we give everyone the right to ask for information to be removed, then no one will be held accountable for his or her actions. It is each person’s own responsibility to hold themselves accountable and not share information that will portray themselves in a poor light. It is simply irresponsible to ask for content to be removed because a person realized it was inappropriate after posting.

If someone else wants to post a picture on Facebook, let’s say, it is people’s responsibility to ensure that the person who owns that picture doesn’t post it if you do not want them to, especially if the photo taken was already known to be inappropriate and/or shouldn’t be shared online. Especially since, once it is posted, it cannot be taken down. In a case like this, it may better to avoid taking inappropriate pictures all together.

As with every big issue, there are going to be people on both sides of the argument. If this right were denied, people would be very upset, understandably. While the consequences of not allowing this right would be the potential for negative content or photos about someone to permanently stay online and create a bias to his or her identity, the benefits could be that everyone would be on a level playing field.

No one could purchase services to remove content when others couldn’t afford it or change their online perceptions and portrayals. Almost everyone has that one embarrassing picture or article online that they wish would disappear. It’s the very reason people want this right. However, knowing that nearly everyone has a post like that makes the embarrassment minimal and less significant. If we all have something unique in common, is it unique at all? In my opinion, no.

It is a combination of all of these thoughts that led me to say, no, the right to be forgotten is not a right that we have.

For more information:

John Oliver video discussing the topic (comedy).

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