On The Las Vegas Shooting: “The only way to fight such darkness is by living a life connected to others”
Right To Be Forgotten Should Be About Correcting Harm And Reputation Management, Not Restricting Speech
In our digital age / third-wave society, the concept of privacy has changed.
Many may even say that it has been diluted or diminished to the point where there is almost no expectation of privacy.
Younger generations routinely share information in ways that would make adults faint.
Today, people build social media and digital histories that showcase every aspect of their lives, warts and all.
But does this mean the importance of one’s reputation has weakened?
Not at all.
Nor does it mean that people should have less responsibility about what information they share online about themselves or others.
If anything, the spread of online information has increased the importance of monitoring and managing one’s reputation online. Eliminating negative, and potentially damaging information (to your personal and professional life), has become a mini-industry. It impacts local businesses, large corporations, brands, and individuals.
When it comes to personal and professional information, I have been, and remain, a huge advocate of establishing a “right to be forgotten” online. In my view, it is a principle that is, at its core, fundamentally American (though I concede that my definition of “American” may differ from others).
When I read the Zero Hedge story about New York state Assemblyman David I. Weprin‘s bill to establish a “right to be forgotten” online, (see New York Assemblyman Unveils Bill To Suppress Non-Government-Approved Free Speech) I was interested to learn more about it.
The Zero Hedge headline raised some alarm bells for me, because while I am a staunch advocate of a digital code of ethics and reputation management, I also value free speech. Under no circumstances should “right to be forgotten” legislation impact free speech.
In reviewing the article and Weprin’s bill, the problem I have with the legislation is that it goes beyond what is necessary to establish protections for people online by requiring “people” to remove ‘inaccurate,’ ‘irrelevant,’ ‘inadequate’ or ‘excessive’ statements about others that are posted online.
Normally, “right to be forgotten” legislation or regulations place the responsibility of removal exclusively on search engines, such as Google. The European standard, for example, does this and by all accounts works rather well.
In many ways, placing the burden on a search engine makes more sense and is more manageable. While anyone can post information on a website, it is a search engine that indexes the data and makes it available to a mass audience. Hence, the search engine can use its algorithm and other technology to block indexing of specific content. This has the affect of removing it from public view, without requiring the content to disappear forever.
Weprin’s legislation does things that are extreme and nonsensical. For example, how can you really define something as irrelevant? Instead of focusing on personal and professional harm (vs the general benefit of society’s right to know), deciding if something is “no longer material to current public debate or discourse,” is a dangerous and highly subjective standard.
Even the phrase “legal matters relating to violence,” is incredibly broad, and could prevent people who are either the victims of violence or the victims of false accustations the ability to have such information removed.
Free speech advocates are absolutely correct to protest Assemblyman Weprin’s legislation.
While I do agree with Tyler Durden that there is no “right to be forgotten” in the abstract, I disagree that such a law is unnecessary. Accusations, court filings, inaccurate and false information online can cause irreparable harm to one’s personal and professional relationships, which coincides with a great many freedoms we value in this country.
The goal of a legitimate and effective “right to be forgotten” law is not to censor speech, or ensure total anonymity from the world. But rather to provide some measure of balance and recourse to individuals who want to protect their reputation from unreasonable aspersions, and harm. To accomplish this – I do think the Europeans have done something very good that I want to see replicated – simply – in states across the country.
I read an interesting article about a service in Japan where men are paid just to listen.
The service provides people the ability to rent an “ossan” or “old man” for about $10 per hour.
Renting an ossan allows you to either schedule a phone conversation, or to meet in a public place, such as a cafe or park. There are strict rules governing any rental, such as no touching.
The men who are “rented” are typically middle aged – the idea being that someone who is older may have more life experiences and wisdom.
While I wonder about the liability of running a similar kind of business here in the U.S., one of many concerns, I do love the concept in its pure form.
Sometimes we all just need someone to listen to us. Talking often allows us to sort through our own problems. And you will likely receive a different type of response from people you know or family members than you would from someone you do not know – who could give you more unbiased perspectives.
The added benefit of hiring someone to listen to you, even if it is just temporary, is that a commercial transaction is going to “feel” different for you. You may be more likely to speak freely, which could help you achieve a better resolution or feel better after the conversation is over. Of course, if you did not feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger in the first place, you would not look for such a service, let alone hire one.
Some of the examples of how a company like this could help people in the U.S. are:
- Schedule to meet an elderly person in the park to walk with them and listen to them talk about their life
- Talk with teenagers who do not want to share their problems with their parents, but need an adult to listen
- Talk with men or women who have jobs that often place them in solitary situations
- Listen to college students looking to share career aspirations
- Listen to people who are experiencing a difficult or exciting event, and have no one to share it with
- Provide a fake friend (rent-a-friend), family member, or companion (rent-a-date or rent-a-man) for various occasions such as weddings, funerals and parties.
When interviewed about the “ossan” business he started, Takanobu Nishimoto has some interesting observations:
- He never knows what exactly people are going to ask for or talk about when they rent him, which is both scary and interesting
- He has had many emotional experiences, including being asked to visit sick people in the hospital, and announce a marriage
- He has debated shutting the service down, but finds he enjoys the social connections and needs the renters as much as they need him
The business in Japan has generated over 1,500 clients, with 60 percent as repeat customers. 70 percent of the clientele are women. Though social isolation has been a noted problem in Japan, most of the clients do not fit into that category.
Given our growing “gig” culture, and the benefits a service like this could provide, it could be a disruptor of sorts.
If anyone wants to start this type of business with me, I have some ideas on services, fee structure, terms and other aspects to this type of a business. I’ve also got a few domains in mind, as well as one purchased. If so, let me know via e-mail: michael [at] hackmer [dot] com.