The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 18, 2013

Once it's on the Internet, it's tough to remove

It was another humble voice on the other end of the line. They were asking me if I would kindly take something off our newspaper website, off the Internet.

They had done something they now regret. It involved the police. They had been caught in some act that is now a bit embarrassing and will make things particularly tough for the next job interview.

These folks type their name into a Google search, and low and behold, the first thing that pops up is our news story about their failure in judgment that led to their arrest.

I feel bad for these folks, empathy. But I cannot change history, I tell them. Even if I did remove the story from The Free Press website, it would be out there on the Internet somewhere. It was likely spread to Facebook and Twitter with links.

There is even a tool on the Internet called the "Wayback Machine" that scans thousands of websites a day and is likely to have scanned news websites like The Free Press. So even if you pulled down the story, the Wayback Machine probably took a picture of it and has it.

And news is permanent. We would no sooner take down a story from the Internet than we would go find every edition of our printed product and destory it.

If we granted requests to take down stories that were not flattering to certain people, we would lose our credibility as an independent news organization.

People might wonder what city council secret we were hiding or who's friend in high places we were protecting.

No, unfortunately folks, we cannot take stories off the Internet. Please consider that next time you think it is fun to be arrested.

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