Cabaero: Right to be forgotten

AN 18-year-old woman on a night out with friends ended up in jail after a fight between her group and another.

A young photo enthusiast thought he could get away with enticing a girl to pose naked for him. He was arrested.

In these two separate cases, the young suspects were eventually cleared of the charges. The courts acquitted them after parties amicably settled and lawyers blamed the acts of the young suspects on teenage angst and raging hormones. The cases were settled and charges eventually dismissed but the incidents involving these young people have already been reported in the news.

Photos and stories of what transpired came out in newspapers, news websites and television reports, and continued to stay there in archives even after several years.

The report on the young woman, scion to a prominent family, remained accessible through search engines like Google. A click on a search result brings the reader to the website story on her arrest, even if the incident took place three years ago.

The newspaper article on the young photographer can be accessed on the publication’s e-paper or electronic paper version.

These young people can have these news reports deleted or taken down by invoking the right to be forgotten. The right is not enshrined in the Constitution, nor is there a local law on it. Not yet, at least. It is, for now, recognition of such a need.

The idea is to protect the young from being haunted by past mistakes, committed out of youthful zest and restlessness. Job applications are now checked against Google or Facebook searches. Derogatory reports on the applicant could be read by future employers.

News organizations recognize, albeit informally, the need to have such records deleted in such cases. Newsrooms have come up with procedures to address requests to delete material. The requesting party, however, will have to make a formal request and prove the charges have been dropped. He or she will have to work on it because a mere request usually does not fly. Editors and their lawyers will then decide to grant or reject the request or if a follow-up article on the acquittal will be best.

If the decision is to delete, there is the process of working with third parties like Google and the e-paper provider.

The right to be forgotten is like being absolved of a past sin because deleting a news account removes the record on the young adult. Its like being resurrected, getting a clean slate of life. They should take their renewal as a way to do good for themselves and others.
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