Broad government censorship proposed
(INTELLIHUB) — A bill introduced into both the New York Assembly and the Senate, supposedly aimed at a “right to be forgotten”, would allow the government to censor what Americans say under a purposefully vague test seemingly designed to allow government officials to decide what the people should and shouldn’t be discussing.
The bill, introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and Sen. Tony Avella, is almost certainly unconstitutional and follows similar moves made by European countries that have attempted to stifle the flow of free speech on the internet.
Claiming to secure an individuals “right to be forgotten” the bill would enforce censorship under the following guidelines:
- Within 30 days of a “request from an individual,”
- “all search engines and online speakers] shall remove … content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is ‘inaccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’ or ‘excessive,’”
- “and without replacing such removed … content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice.”
- “ ‘[I]naccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’, or ‘excessive’ shall mean content,”
- “which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication,”
- “is no longer material to current public debate or discourse,”
- “especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information … is causing to the requester’s professional, financial, reputational or other interest,”
- “with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester’s role with regard to the matter is central and substantial.”
Americans refusing to comply with censorship orders would then be liable for statutory damages of $250 a day plus attorney fees.
As the Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh noted, “Under this bill, newspapers, scholarly works, copies of books on Google Books and Amazon, online encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others) — all would have to be censored whenever a judge and jury found (or the author expected them to find) that the speech was “no longer material to current public debate or discourse” (except when it was “related to convicted felonies” or “legal matters relating to violence” in which the subject played a “central and substantial” role).”
Volokh also added the stunning fact that the bill contains no exception for material of genuine historical interest which under the bill would have to be removed if the government deemed it “no longer material to current public debate.”
Almost as if the idea was taken directly out of 1984, the bill is clearly designed to censor what people say through a vague government test that determines what the public should and shouldn’t be talking about.
Although the bill will most likely be defeated, the fact that government officials are actually putting this direct idea for censorship onto paper shows the attitude of many of our elected officials when it comes to the ever important First Amendment.