Posted in .

ADL Policy Debate Addresses the “Right to be Forgotten”

  • November 24, 2014



The question of whether individuals should have the right to require Internet search engines to remove links to old and embarrassing information about themselves was debated across the country this fall by the Anti-Defamation League. Members of the Mountain States Region’s Board and its Civil Rights Committee overwhelmingly decided that there should not be a “right to be forgotten.”


ADL’s annual Civil Rights Policy Debate is a highlight of the year for many. The Mountain States Board and its Civil Rights Committee debated the topic during a meeting on October 22. The debate was moderated by Dan McKenzie, Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Committee. The debaters were Ben Figa, Deputy Legal Counsel for Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper, and Pamela Hirschman, Associate Attorney with Sheridan Ross PC.


Arguments in favor included:

  • the right to be forgotten essentially reestablishes the balance of privacy and free speech from the pre-Internet age
  • minors should have the right to request removal of links to old or embarrassing information that would otherwise follow them as adults


Arguments against included:

  • the right to be forgotten offends the ideals of freedom of speech and of the press on which the United States was founded
  • the right to be forgotten could erase important information from the public record about extremists, Holocaust deniers and others


During open discussion on the proposed policy issue, questions were raised regarding who gets to decide when something is old enough or embarrassing enough to be removed and how an Internet search engine could set up clear and consistent policies for removing information. While the majority of those in attendance opposed a right to be forgotten, there was some modest support for legislation that would support the right to be forgotten for minors in certain circumstances.


One board member argued passionately in favor of the right to be forgotten, recounting a story about how his son’s arrest was posted online although he was never charged with a crime. He discussed the impact the posting has had on his son and the difficulty and expense of trying to move such arrest reports down in search results by hiring a company to clean up one’s online footprint.



ADL’s National Commission received feedback from the Mountain States Region, as well as from its other regional offices.  The matter was debated at the Annual Meeting of the National Commission in Los Angeles in November. The National Commission agreed with the decision reached by the Mountain States Region’s Board and Civil Rights Committee, as it voted unanimously to oppose a right to be forgotten.