Ever been at a party when you were a teenager and had some less than flattering pictures of yourself posted on Facebook? Perhaps you -like me- went through a pop-punk phase and posted lyrics from My Chemical Romance’s album “Black Parade,” and wish that these were easier to delete. Or maybe the thought of erasing all of the messages you sent to your high-school sweetheart being purged out of existence puts a smile on your face. If any of these statements resonated with you, you may need to move to the UK.
The Tories taking online privacy seriously, weirdly
The United Kingdom’s Conservative party -The Tories- have put forth their plans to enable UK citizens -residents as well- to completely erase all of their Facebook content prior to turning 18. This surprised me, actually, to learn that it was Theresa May’s Parliament that planned on enacting this legislative action. The Tories are not known for their sweeping defense of internet users’ rights. They may be onto something here though.
This legislation is being proposed due to the fear that a user’s employability will be hurt by past activities on Facebook. The idea is that if potential employers cannot buy information on your past life as a dumb teenager -come on, we’ve all been there-, then your chances at securing that employment opportunity are not hampered. It is actually not too bad an idea.
Such user protections are part of a much more robust bill which even aims to curb online bullying and inappropriate content. Facebook and other social media networks which are too slow to or unwilling to remove inappropriate content -such as pornography, cyberbullying, and criminal exhibitionism– will face hefty fines. While a noble endeavor, I do wonder if this bill is just a bit too ambitious in attempting to fine Social Media companies for these sorts of things with time constraints. Successfully tagging, reviewing, and removing posts is a difficult and onerous task. Take down too much too quickly -the quantity strategy- and the companies’ revenue streams will suffer, but if things are left up too long there can be PR nightmares and/or new fines.
This American Facebook user’s two cents
I find myself in a strange position where I agree with the Tories at least on the under 18 reset button. It is not that I have any real animosity toward them, I have just disagreed with them in the past and particularly so on internet rights. Especially considering it only wipes out under-18 data. Since in the UK -and many other countries- have their age of adulthood at 18, it seems foolish that companies should be allowed to disqualify a candidate based on what they did when they were legally a child. This bill may just be the way to make sure that companies honor that value.
Despite that remains unclear how effective this will be, I am wholly in favor of the United States and other nations following this example. We can finally stop demonizing an entire group that has it hard enough as it is. That, and I would be able to finally rest easy, knowing that the lyrics for the song Teenagers no longer haunts the annals of my facebook page somewhere.
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