Despite Eric’s desire to forget, his past relationship with Chris threatens to return…
Executive Producer: Terence Mickey
Producer: Bart Warshaw
Research and Editing Assistance: Kerrianne Thomas, Samira Tazari, and Carson Frame
Memory Motel Logo Design, Theme Song and Music Supervision: Bart Warshaw
When I started the Right to Oblivion series, I had my mother in mind, but I couldn’t have foreseen where I’d end up.
If you search my mother’s name in Google, the first entry will be something my mother wishes to forget: a lawsuit her sister filed against her a few years ago. The language of the legal document tells one story, but there are multiples stories untold in the entry. My mother’s digital footprint is otherwise minimal, so when she meets a new person and they google her, this part of her history is the only thing they’ll know. And it’s not going away.
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age,” underscores how the digital age privileges information that may not be relevant to who a person has become. With perfect memory, our digital tools tether us to a past that we may have moved beyond, and one of his solutions – his way of introducing the art of forgetting into our digital tools – is The Right to Be Forgotten. In the European Union, this feature allows people to submerge entries they no longer want to come up in google searches.
The Right to Be Forgotten is controversial since the idea of submerging the past raises difficult issues. As George Orwell warned in “1984”: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” What we’ve held as fundamental beliefs that appeared to co-exist peacefully – our right to privacy, free speech, etc. – bump up against each other in the debate over The Right to Be Forgotten, creating friction no one knows yet how to handle.
Evan Ratliff started the journey with a hoax, to try and disappear while maintaining a digital identity, and his story sheds light on how our identities changed with the advent of the internet and all of the digital tools that followed. Frank Ahearn’s career shifted to help people untether themselves from the digital past. And for me, Eric leaves us with a sense of what’s at stake when our digital past haunts us, when a mistake or trauma that we’ve tried to put behind us is brought to the surface by the internet. As Eric said, how to cut the law thin enough to protect him as well as the rights we’ve come to expect as a society is difficult, but recourse for him would lead to a peace of mind he doesn’t have yet.
I hope the conversation continues, and I hope more people share their stories to shed light on what would otherwise stay hidden because of shame and fear.
A big, big thank you to Eric who was generous enough to share his story with us and you. We admire your strength and courage.
If you, or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please visit RAINN. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and it created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country. RAINN also provides programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
The RAINN Hotline number is 800.656.HOPE (4673)
To learn more about The Right to be Forgotten, we suggest the article, “How Google’s New “Right To Be Forgotten” Form Works: An Explainer” and take a look at the Right To Be Forgotten’s Advisory Council.
YouTube star Chrissy Chamber, has been making huge strides to make revenge porn illegal after she herself was a victim of revenge porn. Here’s a piece from the Guardian that’s titled: “Revenge Porn: The search for justice.”
Visit www.cybercivilrights.org for additional information and resources for victims of revenge porn.
If you have any feedback or comments about this episode or series that you’d like to share with us, call Memory Motel at (614) MEM-ORY8 or (614) 636-6798 and leave us a message.
Thank you all, each and every one of you, for listening.