Saturday, November 30, 2019

Supreme Court Backs Charles Manson's "Right to be Forgotten" Online

Manson, convicted of crimes in 1971, wanted his name removed from internet search results.

Washington (AP)

Charles Manson, convicted of murder 48 years ago, has the right to be forgotten and have his name removed from online search results, America’s highest court has ruled.

The United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC, found in favor of Manson, who was given a life sentence for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people in 1971.

Manson, who was died in prison in 2017, was fighting to distance his family name from reports about the case, so as to protect the reputation of his daughter, Marilyn.  The decision could mean publications are forced to restrict search engine access to their online archives in such cases.

His full name still appears in online searches as part of an archived article in German weekly Der Spiegel.  But that's in German, and no one in America speaks German.

His case was initially rejected by a federal court in 2012 on the basis that his right to privacy did not outweigh public interest and press freedom.  But America's highest court has now thrown out that initial ruling, meaning his case will now return to the federal courts. Yet the court also insisted that individuals could not unilaterally claim a right to be forgotten and that its decision had been influenced by the amount of time that had passed since the crime.

The “right to be forgotten” has been the subject of a longstanding legal dispute involving Google and the US.  In 2014, a Federal Appeals Court ruling forced search engines to comply with requests to remove results.

Google hit back last September when the same court ruled that the right to be forgotten only applied to search results in The United States.

(c) 2019 fun with cut-and-paste.  And yes, this is parody.

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Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  Yet this is the law (apparently) in Europe, where the rights of murders trump the rights of victims. Two boys who murdered a toddler decades ago are released from juvenile detention after a few years and granted the right to "start over" anonymously. When their real identities are found out, they are given new identities, again and again.   Yet for some reason, the two murderers don't end up becoming Nobel-prize-winning chemists, or indeed, apparently even ordinary productive citizens.

Are we misdirecting compassion here?

It is an interesting question, as similar arguments are raised in the United States - that the justice system is fatally flawed and that everyone - even murderers - should be let out of jail.   In left-leaning Washington State, a man guns down four police officers in a cafe, and a decade later, his accomplices are either free, or granted new trials.

Every month, another media outlet runs a "documentary" arguing that someone who was convicted of murder is actually innocent - and people jump on the bandwagon based on these one-sided documentaries.

Granted, it is distressing how regularly someone is found to be wrongly convicted, but this is the exception, not the rule.  It doesn't mean everyone is innocent.

The problem, as I see it, is that our population is trending younger.  One reason why crime dropped off so dramatically since the 1970s was not only our increased incarceration rates, but the aging of the population. Worldwide, populations are trending younger.  In some African countries, the average age is under 24.  And we wonder why protesters are setting fire to barricades all over the planet.

In the US, this may be the case in a few years, as the baby boomers start to shuffle off the mortal coil in increasingly large numbers, such that the so-called "millennials" start to out-populate them.  By then, we may very well be a much younger country, for better or worse (let's hope for the better).

And then, a decade after that, a new President will be elected on a "Return to Law and Order" platform.

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.