Take Down the Internet

     So why is it OK for an adult to be embarrassed?
     That was the first thing that popped into my head last week after I saw that the state of California had just enacted a law requiring websites to let minors take stuff off down.
     Leaving the age discrimination aside, this seemed like a cool idea. At first I thought that if some bully calls you a ninny or posts a photo of you failing to do a pull-up in gym class you can remove it and save yourself future therapy bills.
     It would be like having your own time machine so you can rewrite history.
     The Terminator comes to the Internet.
     Unfortunately, this is not what the law does. The only thing minors can do is take down stuff they put up themselves.
     Most passed-out/vomiting photos are not selfies. They’re safe on social media.
     The new law, in fact, actually specifically says minors cannot erase stuff posted – or reposted – by third parties. It seems to be protecting embarrassing stuff.
     Considering the not-insignificant news coverage of the law, this might have seemed like a big deal.
     The Los Angeles Times quoted a state legislator calling the law “a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences.”
     Maybe this should have been applied to politicians.
     If you read the bill, the posting minors – most of whom have delete buttons on their social media sites anyway – can’t even edit with impunity. A web operator doesn’t have to erase if “the minor does not follow the instructions provided to the minor … on how the registered user may request and obtain the removal of content or information.”
     Or if “the minor has received compensation or other consideration for providing the content.”
     Don’t look at me. I don’t know who could be paying for bad-hair-day photos. Maybe it’s people who want to feel better about themselves by comparison.
     Why would a state legislature pass a law that does practically nothing except generate news coverage?
     I don’t think I have to answer that for you.
     But I don’t mean to be cynical (I’m just that way naturally). There really is a good idea here if amended just a bit. What the law should say is that anyone can erase anything from the Internet.
     Censorship, after all, is a form of speech. It’s just as communicative, if not more so, than, say, strippers and corporate money. When you shout someone down, there is a definite impact on communication.
     The ability to erase is called editing. If I say something obscene like .
     Hey! Where did that word go?
     This sort of thing happens all the time. It’s normal.
     It’s not a First Amendment issue because it wouldn’t be the government editing. Private persons do it regularly.
     Wikipedia, for example, does it all the time. If you make something up and put it on Wikipedia, it’s likely to be gone almost instantly.
     The rest of the Internet should be that way.
     Think of all the sites you’d like to obliterate. Think of the joy you’d have when doing it. It would be a bigger rush than killing demons in “Diablo.”
     Of course, this could wipe out the Internet.
     Then we’d be back to having normal conversations. You can say anything you want, let it hang there in the air for milliseconds, and then it’s gone. It doesn’t have a lifetime impact.
     I propose a new social media site: Erasebook.
     A return to the good old days.

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