Thursday, February 20, 2020

Right to Removal of "Inaccurate, Irrelevant, Inadequate, or Excessive" Information About People …

By Eugene Volokh - February 20, 2020 at 08:02AM

Iowa Senate File 2236, introduced by Sen. Zach Nunn, would define "content of minimal value" as "information related to an individual that is inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate, or excessive," including

information which, after a significant lapse in time from its first publication, is no longer material to current public debate or discourse, especially when considered in light of the demonstrable harm the information is causing or may cause to an individual's professional, financial, reputational, or other interest

(though excluding "information related to criminal convictions, potential or pending litigation relating to a violent crime, or a matter that is of significant current public interest").

Whenever a person asks a web site or a search engine to remove "information the individual contends is content of minimal value related to the individual from the operator's search engine, index, or internet site," the information must be removed (and no indication may be given to the public that the material has been removed). If it isn't removed, the site or search engine will be liable for damages and may be subject to enforcement proceedings by the Iowa Attorney General.

A clearly unconstitutional speech restriction, it seems to me, both because of its breadth and its vagueness. Seriously, do you want the Iowa Attorney General and Iowa courts to have the power to censor a wide range of speech—newspaper articles, blog posts, consumer reviews, academic articles (e.g., law review articles that discuss the facts of civil ligitation), and more—based on government decisions about what is "irrelevant," "inadequate," or "excessive," and "is no longer material to current public debate or discourse"? (To the extent something is inaccurate, that is already made either actionable or not by the existing law of libel.)

For more on the Carson King backstory, see here. For more on a similarly worded New York bill from 2017, see this post; for a similarly worded New Mexico bill that I had missed, see here.


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