The Internets Never Forget | February 27, 2010
5 Years ago somebody wrote something stupid on the Internet that annoyed a bunch of bloggers enough to write about it, including myself. Yesterday I received a contrite email from this person saying that the incident had ruined their life and asking if I’d remove the post. It turns out that my blog post ranked in the top 20 results for this guys name and he was wondering if I’d remove the article. I considered it, as to be honest I’d completely forgotten about the event (as had most people 2 weeks after it happen) and I didn’t really care that much anyway. However it got me thinking about two different things.
On the one hand, the Internet can freeze youthful folly and a small transgressions can stick with you for life. So that picture of you drunk and passed out in a skip, or that heated argument you had on a mailing list when you were twenty can come back and haunt you. This is something that the Facebook generation is beginning to discover as they enter the job market only to have their potential boss Google their antics. Surely everybody deserves the anonymity of youth; to screw up a few times and not have it haunt you for life for ever. I’m a pretty decent chap and felt sorry for the guy, so was definitely tempted to strike his transgressions from the history books. I know that I’d want somebody to show me some compassion if the position was reversed.
On the other hand, by removing this information aren’t we effectively rewriting history? I’m sure we’ve all written dumb things on the Internet in the past, yet we don’t all go around asking for this information to be doctored. Shouldn’t people be forced to standby their mistakes and carry them with honour and dignity? Isn’t it important to know that the MP now campaigning for family values once smoked pot and screwed around? Similarly isn’t it useful to know that somebody who now makes their living writing standards based code once said…
“Standards cronies have now latched on to the disabled ‘the starving African children of high technology’ for leverage. Spend time reading A List Apart, and you’ll soon get the impression that accessibility is bigger than cancer, and we’re all about to go blind and lose our mouse-bearing limbs. The solution? Web standards!”
So what do you folks think? Should youthful folly be let to rest or is ther a moral obligation to keep this information around?
Posted at February 27, 2010 12:06 AM