Lighting Couches on Fire

An interesting article in the Atlantic is about the case between Argentinian pop star Virginia Da Cunha and Google about removing racy photos she no longer wants indexed. > … she sued Google and Yahoo, demanding they take the pictures down. An Argentinean judge, invoking a version of “the right to be forgotten,” sided with Da Cunha, fined Google and Yahoo, and ordered them to delink all sites with racy pictures that included her name.

With that victory, Da Cunha set a squirmy precedent for any of us who have done something that has been published on the Internet we might want taken down.

When I was an editor at The Lantern, we published daily crime reports both online and in the print edition culled from Ohio State Campus Police. Graduated students would often call and ask for their crime reports and stories to be taken down from the website and I had a strict policy not to remove any published articles.

I could sympathize with the requests since they would often say they lost a job because a prospective employer Googled their name and one of the top results was a detailed account of their past drunken behavior as an undergrad. But I worried that by removing the seemingly harmless crime reports, we would soon be on a slippery slope toward censorship and rewriting history. A crime report is one thing, but what if the university president called and asked for an exposé to be removed because he didn’t agree with it?

I think the solution for many of these cases is to take ownership of your identity on the Internet, so that when someone searches for you your edited version of yourself is among the top results. Your Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook profile, would no doubt be better than a history of you doing lighting a couch on fire in the middle of High Street while you were an undergrad.

Taking this a step further, I think it’s extremely important for most people to have their own website outside of companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook where they are able to manage their image to their heart’s content. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. Hell, even a simple site such as Tim Van Damme’s would suffice.

It’s more important than ever in this day and age to be mindful and aware of your Internet appearance, and it’s really not too difficult to harness that power yourself as opposed to letting others dictate it for you.