The digital age is facing its first existential crisis, reports the New York Times: the impossibility of erasing your posted past and moving on. Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her underage students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree. Snyder sued, arguing that the university had violated her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for her (perfectly legal) after-hours behavior. But in 2008, a federal district judge rejected the claim, saying that because Snyder was a public employee whose photo didn’t relate to matters of public concern, her “Drunken Pirate” post was not protected speech. When historians of the future look back on the perils of the early digital age, Stacy Snyder might well be an icon. The problem she faced is only one example of a challenge that is confronting millions of people around the globe: how best to live our lives in a world where the internet records everything and forgets nothing—where every online photo, status update, Twitter post, and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever……Read More
Update—Should school newspapers, or any newspapers for that matter, be forced to delete archived stories in order to clear a person’s record online? That was the issue before a state judge in Pennsylvania in a case that touches on the potential for media censorship in the digital era.
The Centre Daily Times and the Daily Collegian student newspaper at Penn State were ordered to expunge records of information about two defendants, an unusual provision inserted by a defense lawyer into otherwise standard orders signed by Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler. Kistler signed new expungement orders in the cases on July 7 and called the initial orders “an inadvertence.”
Such orders typically direct public agencies to clear a person’s record in cases where charges are dismissed, withdrawn, or aren’t applicable for someone who’s a first-time offender who completes a rehabilitation program.…Read More
Controlling what children see on TV, online, and in other electronic media requires a delicate balancing act between the First Amendment rights of content providers and the desire to protect kids from inappropriate material, said panelists during a Nov. 2 discussion at the Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C.
“The law is not settled on this subject,” said Jim Steyer, chief executive officer and founder of Common Sense Media, which sponsored the discussion along with the Georgetown Law Center. He added that “reasonable minds can disagree” on where the intersection of children’s safety and developing media should lie.
The panel, which represented a broad range of opinions and backgrounds, included Steyer; Daniel Brenner, a partner with the media group at the law firm Hogan and Harston; Georgetown law professor Angela Campbell; Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Senior Attorney Kim Matthews; and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. The discussion was titled “Media, Kids, and the First Amendment.”…Read More