You may remember a story from last year about a convicted murderer in Germany trying to use a law that was designed to protect an individual's name and likeness from unwanted publicity, to demand Wikipedia remove
all information about him, such as his murder conviction. Apparently, some US politicians think something similar is a good idea. Thomas O'Toole
points us to a report of an Ohio state senator who has proposed a bill that would allow repeat offenders the ability to "delete their record" from public view
, which (stunningly) might also require newspapers to remove all old articles about their arrests and convictions:
Under threat of a $250,000 fine, the bill would require individuals, newspapers and other news media to delete stories from the Internet and their archives about the arrests and convictions of those who win expungement orders.
If a party knowingly released information about a sealed conviction, they would face a $500,000 fine. The damages would double to $1 million if the banned information was available on the Internet.
As the article notes, this almost certainly violates the First Amendment and the concept of prior restraint. The state senator in question, Shirley Smith, claims that people are misinterpreting the bill
, and it was not intended to apply to news stories (even though, as written, it certainly appears to do exactly that). Smith says that language requiring "business organizations" to not publish such information is actually targeted at former employers of individuals, saying they cannot disclose a conviction to potential new employers. The idea behind the bill is to make it easier for ex-convicts to get jobs. Of course, it's still difficult to see how disclosing factual information like that should ever be considered illegal.