A New York Democrat Assemblyman has put forward a bill in the state that has to do with what they call “the right to be forgotten,” that has serious implications for the First Amendment.
The bill, which reads that it is “AN ACT to amend the civil rights law and the civil practice law and rules, in relation to creating the right to be forgotten act,” was introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and in the State Senate via Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella.
These liberal politicians put forward a bill that would require people to remove “inaccurate,” “irrelevant,” “inadequate” or “excessive” statements about people.
Take a look at the language of part of the bill, courtesy of Zero Hedge:
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.”
If search engines don’t comply with this bill, should it pass, they would be on the hook for statutory damages of $250 per day as well as attorney’s fees.
Some might see this as a privacy issue — which is surely why these libs framed it the way they did — but a closer look reveals that it gives huge latitude for the government to regulate speech.
Eugene Volokh pointed out in an article for The Washington Post:
So, 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). And of course the bill contains no exception even for material of genuine historical interest; after all, such speech would have to be removed if it was “no longer material to current public debate.” Nor is there an exception for autobiographic material, whether in a book, on a blog or anywhere else. Nor is there an exception for political figures, prominent businesspeople and others.
Volokh goes on to point out that this is clearly unconstitutional government overreach that goes against the First Amendment. It amounts to censorship via a “broad, vague test based on what the government thinks the public should or shouldn’t be discussing,” he said.
He further noted: “Remember: There is no ‘right to be forgotten’ in the abstract; no law can ensure that, and no law can be limited to that,” and that this bill is simply an attempt to shut down free speech.