What you need to know:
- In exceptional cases, however, they can unpublish a story to comply with a court order or other legal requirements.
- The majority (nearly 58%) of you who judged the case of Eleanor said her story should not be removed from the internet.
- In general, news organizations do not unpublish what they have published.
Last week, I asked you to judge the case of a woman who wanted a story about her storming a church unpublished – removed from the internet.
She said she had “moved on” and the story was no longer valid. Besides, she said, she was finding it awkward to explain it to her children.
Eleanor, as I called her to avoid embarrassing her further, is seeking what is called in some jurisdictions “the right to be forgotten.”
Nation online makes it impossible to be forgotten.
When you google Eleanor’s real name the story comes up.
It includes the clip in which she talks to NTV about her storming the church to stop her husband marrying another woman, a policewoman to boot.
We live in the internet era.
To find an old media story all you need to do is to google and voilà! You have the story on your mobile phone or computer screen.
That’s why people are increasingly asking editors to unpublish old stories about them because they are easily accessible to anyone, anywhere.
They complain that the stories bring up their unpleasant past, or are unfair and inaccurate because even though they may have been accurate at the time they were published circumstances have since changed.
They want to stop being haunted or reminded of a bad experience by such stories. This is the predicament facing Eleanor.
The majority (nearly 58%) of you who judged the case of Eleanor said her story should not be removed from the internet. See “Readers Have Their Say” below.
In general, news organizations do not unpublish what they have published.
They argue those stories are part of their archives, which should remain intact as part of history.
In exceptional cases, however, they can unpublish a story to comply with a court order or other legal requirements such as in the case of defamation or infringement of copyright.
They can also unpublish a story if there is a substantial threat to the welfare of the subject of the news but the threshold is very high.
In the European Union people can invoke the "right to be forgotten." This follows a May 13, 2014, ruling by the European Court of Justice that requires Internet search engines such as Google to remove information deemed "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" personal information on the web, or face a fine. But this judge-made law applies only in EU countries.
Digital Managing Editor Churchill Otieno says NMG only pulls down stories in cases of factual misrepresentation.
“We take it that a story only gets published where there’s public interest, and if such a story has evolved then the same public needs to be informed accordingly,” he says. And if there have been material developments to warrant a follow-up, he says, a follow-up story should be done and if the original story contained errors these should be corrected.
Eleanor is not claiming the story is inaccurate but she believes she’s entitled to a takedown because she has moved on and she doesn’t want to have to explain to her children the uncomfortable past.
Additionally, she says, it was out of her free will that she went to NMG offices and asked for the story to be aired. Now, she’s asking for the story to be taken down, as there are no other “interested parties.”
However, I find nothing in the NMG editorial policy or guidelines, or in Kenyan laws, or in journalism best practices, that would justify removing the story. So, sorry Eleanor, I’m not recommending a takedown.
Send your complaints to [email protected] Call or text 0721 989 264
Readers have their say
The following are your views on whether Eleanor’s church outburst should be unpublished.
Most of you, 57.8% of those who responded, said NTV should not unpublish the story. Another 21% said it should while another 21% were non-committal. The responses have been shortened because of space limitations.
Don’t remove it
“The digital editor should not fall in the trap of unpublishing the post in question; if he does he may as well nod to similar requests in future. Journalism shouldn’t be manipulated to accommodate consumer’s temporal seasons of insanity that is akin to putting a noble professional inside a box.
Eleanor is not a victim of bad journalism or misinformation. She willingly invited journalists to cover the episode. She must deal with the consequences of her past actions. Instructing the editor to pull down her story, Eleanor wants to lower her guilt level fanned by demons from the past.
Unpublishing won’t have any effect. Internet never pukes content fed on it; the clip will still appear in the interwebs.”
The Internet doesn’t forget, and shouldn’t be made to forget by Eleanor. It’s important people think through their actions and consider possible consequences. Her invite to the media was the licence to have her story out there. The story should thus remain on YouTube.
“Don’t unpublish woman’s story. It’s time we all learned actions have consequences, hence the need to think twice before posting anything. Internet never forgets.”
“The clip should not be removed. After all she chose to do it without being forced. Choices have consequences.”
“Eleanor’s outburst captured by the Nation was real and it shouldn’t be obliterated. The children have no business pestering her when they become mature and know there’s something called YouTube and they happen to meet their mother there in a foul mood sometime back in year 2015.”
“I don’t think you should unpublish the story. And to use Eleanor’s words, it should be healthy for both her and her kids to explain herself to them. They need to understand clearly what happened.”
“The woman admitted she created the scandal and invited the media. Therefore, she should go before the Kings Church in Nakuru and apologize in front of the congregation and the couple. Afterwards she can request the clip to be deleted. But, honestly, let the clip stay to deter such behaviour in future.”
“While Eleanor may have valid reasons why the clip should be removed, it should not be pulled down because she was the one who brought it to our attention. Further, she knew the consequences of her action. The story is also a valuable case study. There may be lessons to learn from her situation.”
--Solomon Mbũrũ Kamau
“You simply can’t erase history no matter how embarrassing. Just forget it and live on. If she were wiser, would just shut up and move on with her life and bring up her children. Just as you can’t remove King David’s episode with Uriah from the Bible, you can’t, must not, remove the woman’s story from the media.”
Remove the story
“Unpublish the story. While she may have consented to its publication 3 years ago, her current request must be taken as withdrawal of consent, in line with data protection & privacy best practices.”
“She was angry and trying to be protective of her marriage. Again, her children are suffering the lack of foresight of their mum. They are embarrassed. She’s pleading for the children. Consider giving her some peace now that she’s no longer angry and under pressure.”
“Eleanor’s story should be removed because it reminds her of an unpleasant past. It’s also a humiliation to her kids.”
“Eleanor wanted the world know her husband was practising polygamy without her consent. But she now sees herself ‘naked.’ So covering her is so important. Bringing the clip down is covering her, and actually drying her tears.”
Judgments were also received from Robert Njitu Ngetich who votes not to unpublish, Paul of Nakuru who says he would be sorry if we decided to unpublish, an unnamed reader who warns the story has been “downloaded thousands of times and unpublishing it isn’t possible,” George who warns people to be “very careful” with what they tell the media as it’s permanent, Eng. Silas Nyambok who is non-committal (“NTV may only pull down the clip at its own pleasure’), and Eustace Mugambi who’s also non-committal but critical of the public editor for his “cheap, chauvinistic,” and “tongue-in-the-cheek commentary.”
We thank them for their judgments, which we’re unable to elaborate because of limited space.