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Who owns the news? The "right to be forgotten” and journalists’ conflicting principles

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 11:59 by Ivor Shapiro, Brian MacLeod Rogers
“The right to be forgotten” (RTBF) is a relatively new concept in human-rights law, but it deals in root ethical issues familiar to news people and their sources. Editors must routinely weigh the news’ long-term role as a “historical record” against its potential negative impacts on individuals. In the digital-journalism era, publication is at the same time both more enduring and less static, creating new parameters and possibilities for ethical decision-making. Because news content may be seen by more people in more places for much longer, the potential to do lasting good or harm is greater, but, because digital publication is more retractable and redactible than legacy platforms, the possibility of correction, clarification and removal creates both new harm-reduction opportunities and new challenges to the historical record. Also known as a “right to erasure” or “right to oblivion,” the RTBF, now accepted in the European Union, recognizes that, even in the age of Google, people should retain some degree of control over information about themselves and their pasts. (Factsheet on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ruling (C131-12), n.d.; Manna, 2014; Rosen, 2012). This paper will explore both legal and ethical implications of the issue.

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