Undo the news. That’s what state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, would like online publishers to do.
She wasted little time once her first legislative session started, working on legislation to help herself out. She introduced a bill Jan. 31 to force online publishers to “remove damaging information.” She defines damaging information as “inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate or excessive.”
She doesn’t define those terms.
The backlash from open government proponents was swift and horrific. She asked the House chair to table the bill the next day.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Romero is still smarting from the beating the media gave her during her time at the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. A minimal rehash of her bad behavior would include expensive drinks, dinners, travel and baseball tickets enjoyed by her and board members in 2016 and 2017. The Coalition is funded by taxpayer money, originating in several different cities and counties, as well as the Department of Energy, represented through the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Several newspapers wrote extensively about Romero’s embarrassing actions. None of the stories we read in other newspapers or printed in the Rio Grande SUN were inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate nor excessive. The stories gave an accurate depiction of how the Board misbehaved, tried to cover up the transgressions and Romero’s role in the illegal spending.
Romero would like that information removed and hope people will forget what she did.
In her message to table the bill she said her intentions were good. The intent of the bill was to protect victims of revenge porn, cyber bullying, and others. But none of those things are cited in the bill. It was purposely left vague so if passed, she could use her own legislation to apply to her situation.
Romero is not naive enough to assume a newspaper could recall all its print copies. Those stories are archived forever. She’s also not after television studios’ electronic archives.
However, she is naive enough to assume that once a story is removed from a publisher’s website, it’s gone. Stories are continually pirated off newspapers’ websites. Once those stories are copied to social media, they’re gone. You can’t recall those.
And you can bet Romero’s saga was told and retold by multiple outlets. She can’t save herself with one bad piece of legislation that is a blatant effort to unring the bell.
She’s also being naive if she thinks voters have forgotten or will forget what she did. She should have amended the bill to include, "Local citizens’ memories must be wiped."
This issue arises occasionally, usually when an immature student does something they think is really fun, like streaking or spray-painting a building. Perhaps they attended a hate rally and held a sign saying “God Hates Gays.” Their picture is taken and is published in their local newspaper. High fives all around at the next hate group meeting.
Then five years later that person tries to get a job and guess what is the first thing to come up number one in a Google search? They call their local newspaper and ask that the picture be removed. You can’t undo that. What is put into cyberspace, remains there, and it’s never private.
What was news two years ago must remain memorialized. Rest assured media will not go back and edit Romero’s stunts. They are recorded forever.
Romero should be ashamed of herself for trying this stunt. Seasoned legislators saw the judicial implications and probable unconstitutionality of such a silly stunt. This bill would not have gone far, but the fact she even tried is a nasty blemish on the blank slate with which she began her career as a state representative.
We’re just grateful she didn’t go so far as to ask state newspapers to unprint about 500,000 copies, or worse yet, get out there with white out and big erasers.