The Right To Be Forgotten

Does Anyone Have The Legal and Ethical Right To Scrub Themselves From The Internet?

Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

I found out about this through a friend on Twitter who quoted an image with the definition of “The Right To Be Forgotten,” and it got me thinking if Loud Mouth Brown Girl ceased to exist tomorrow, how would I feel about that?

Every single day, billions of terabytes flow through the internet cables that bring us all together. Not a single social media company would exist, if not for the content that we the users create, so since we’re the people creating the content, don’t we have the right to claim ownership, by taking it down at our will?

The conversation about what equates to theft of concept has been swirling around the world for centuries. From radio to newspapers and television, film and media, everyone’s so concerned with who owns what, and when that ownership ceases to matter so that someone else can capitalize on the thing they didn’t create.

When we as writers write something, we are responsible for the words that we use, we are responsible for what we say and how we say what we’re saying. But at the end of the day, we ONLY own our work when it stays on our platform, the moment that someone takes it — or buys it — it becomes their’s and it’s no longer ours.

Once we put it out into the world, it belongs to the world — or at least that’s what many people think and often say, loudly. They believe and in some cases rightfully so, that just because you create it doesn’t mean that it’s yours forever. It’s only yours until you tell someone else about it, and then it becomes a tangible shared thing.

Writers, and Artists, believe this is only true when we are compensated for our work. “You pay me, it’s yours,” — every deli owner in the world. But what if you don’t pay? I’ve been guilty of this — it was a poem called “Why I Play with My Cunt,” for a very brief moment in time I claimed that poem as my own, and I hated every second of it, not because I’d stolen it, but because those words weren’t mine.

They described everything I felt about why I played with my twat, but they were not MY words, “I” did not string them together, the truth is they were never meant to be mine, they were meant to inspire me, challenge me to be a better writer, and encourage me to be that open and vulnerable with my own audience one day, and while I have no idea if the author knows I claimed their work I will never not feel awful about the fact that I did it.

When it happened to me, I was enraged, because not only did it happen, but on top of the fact that someone else claimed my work:

  • She was a white woman
  • She took everything I said on Twitter and put it into a blog post
  • All of our friends — in what was once a VERY supportive and honest community — supported her, instead of seeing the similarities and asking her to respond with an apology.

That was how I learned how much it hurt to have work taken from you, twisted and turned into something else without your permission, and without acknowledgement for the original creation that inspired what came next.

It hurt, really bad, and that’s why when I post something on social media, I am ridiculously careful about what I say and how I say it. I never want people to say “well Devon took it from this or that….” no, what Devon says, is what DEVON says, and no one gets to take that from me again.

Years of having every inch of my body claimed by white men, specifically, who thought they were entitled to me because white men do what might men have always done, they colonize.

Most of the entire tech industry is filled to the brim with white men, and honestly, I don’t know how y’all are doing it, but that’s true.

Compared to overall private industry, the high tech sector employed a larger share of whites (63.5 percent to 68.5 percent), Asian Americans (5.8 percent to 14 percent) and men (52 percent to 64 percent), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4 percent to 7.4 percent), Hispanics (13.9 percent to 8 percent), and women (48 percent to 36 percent). — USA, Equal Employment Opportunities Commission — Diversity in High Tech

So if most of the people who are creating these platforms are white, if most of the people monitoring them are white, if most of the people ensuring the safety of our information and content, are white people, what hope do BIPOC and Black folk, of having their “Right To Be Forgotten,” enforced?

More and more Black women — in particular — are coming out with stories of being abused, harrassed and stalked. They are shutting down their social media profiles and going into hiding. They are ditching their phones, finding new places to live, and exerting their right to escape the trauma of abusive relationships, partnerships, and entire networks of families, friends, and alleged allies.

So when we say that “our content,” belongs to us, and you say shit like “your time’s numbered Mouse,” (Disney’s right to own (a version) of Mickey Mouse runs out in 2023, then what we’re saying is “I don’t actually care about the time it took to create that particular thing I’m choosing to call a product which is really a labour of love, vulnerability, hope, inspiration, and creativity that NO ONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, UNIVERSE, OR DIMENSION, CAME UP WITH.”

When you pay to watch a movie, you don’t OWN the film, you own A COPY of that film. It’s not yours. You didn’t create it. You didn’t act in it, and even if you had a dream about yourself being in the same spot as one of the characters that don’t mean that YOU brought that “product,” into being, in OUR reality.

The content that we create for these social media giants belongs to the PEOPLE who created them, regardless of age, race, creed, colour, nationality, size, or orientation.

When we exchange what WE Create for money, goods, or services, they cease to belong to us, but until then every person on earth has the right to be forgotten if they want to, but honestly…I’m not one of those people, so Loud Mouth Brown Girl (dot com) will always exist, and it will always belong to Devon J Hall, aka Devon Hallgate from Surrey British Columbia.

Daughter of Jonquil, sister to Chris and many others. And you…you can just keep making the same mistake I did growing up, believing that I couldn’t be anything other than what you told me to be.

Which is precisely why that website exists in the world, to begin with. Ain’t life funny?

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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