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Where Does the U.S. Stand on “Right to be Forgotten” Policy?

Whether we follow the EU's lead will be debated at ALA 2016 Midwinter

In the European Union, a user has the right to have links to certain personal information removed from the results of web searches involving his or her name. This “right to be forgotten” has stimulated robust debate about the appropriateness of such a regime in other countries. ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) will delve into the pros and cons about its possible adoption here in the U.S. during a Breakout session on Saturday January 9, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at ALA's Midwinter Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Expert speakers include Gail Slater, vice president, legal and regulatory policy, Internet Association, which represents the leading Internet companies, and James G. Neal, university librarian emeritus, Columbia University, member of the board of trustees, Freedom to Read Foundation, and a member of ALA's executive board. The session will be moderated by Alan S. Inouye, director of ALA's OITP.

The “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) refers to an individual's right to compel a search engine service to have a process for removing links to certain personal information from search results involving his or her name. Personal blogs, arrest records, explicit photos, and business critiques are now typically published forever. Should individuals have the right to have links to certain personal information removed from web search results? Under most current applications of RTBF, information is not removed or destroyed at its source. Rather, a search engine or web page owner prevents links from appearing in the search results list that is produced following a name search. The originally published information generally remains available and could potentially be located by using a different search engine or by trying different search terms. However, in some applications of RTBF, the underlying published information may, in fact, be removed.

Dan Lee, chair of the OITP Advisory Committee and director of the Office of Copyright Management and Scholarly Communication at the University of Arizona, explains that, “Libraries and librarians preserve and provide access to information. Since RTBF obscures information or essentially hides it from those searching on the Internet, it effectively removes access to information. This poses a challenge to a librarian's social responsibility to help users find the information they need, and is especially harmful when there is a clear public interest in having access to it.” On the other hand, he said, “people should have control over the visibility of their own information. Sometimes, there are compelling reasons for why access to certain information should be eliminated or minimized. Thus, there is a fundamental tension between the rights of individuals and society. This should be a very interesting panel.”

The Exhibits open the afternoon of Friday, January 8. Join hundreds of exhibiting companies displaying the latest technology in the profession, as well as new titles and products.

Sunrise Celebration to Feature Mary Frances Berry

Acclaimed civil rights activist and academic Dr. Mary Frances Berry will keynote the 2016 Dr. Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration during the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits in Boston. The 2016 Celebration will be held from 6:30 — 7:30 a.m. on Monday January 12 in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Berry has been one of the most prominent activists in the cause of civil rights, gender equality, and social justice in the United States. Her publications include such subjects as the history of constitutional racism in America and child care and women's rights. Power in Words: The Stories behind Barack Obama's Speeches, from the State House to the White House (Beacon Press, 2010) offers insight and historical context of President Obama's most memorable speeches. Her most recent book, We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family's Search for Home across the Atlantic World (Oxford University Press, 2014) offers a new angle of vision for looking at racial identity, demography and migration as themes of our national history. Her forthcoming book is Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich: Vote Buying and the Corruption of Democracy (Beacon Press, February 2016).

Berry is a fellow of the Society of American Historians and the National Academy of Public Administration. In 2014 she was named a distinguished fellow of the American Society for Legal History the highest honor awarded by the Society. Since 1988, she has been the Geraldine R. Segal professor of American social thought, history, law and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her participation is generously made possible by Beacon Press.

The 2015 Sunrise Celebration will bring together leaders from across the association, including 2015 — 2016 ALA President Sari Feldman and ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. Featured readings will include selected passages from the works of King. Coffee and tea will be served. Attendance is open to all attendees of the 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting. For more information, please visit

Mary Frances Berry

Anti-bullying Activist Lizzie Velasquez is 2016 Arthur Curley Memorial Lecturer

Anti-bullying activist Lizzie Velasquez will bring her message of not allowing others to define you and of turning negativity into a motivating force to 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston as the Arthur Curley lecturer on Saturday, January 9, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight and causes accelerated aging, Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school for looking different and later as a teenager when she discovered a YouTube video labeling her “the world's ugliest woman.” Instead of giving in to the cruelty and vitriol expressed, Velasquez decided to respond to the bullies and tormentors by fighting back in a positive way. She was inspired to speak out against both cyber- and face-to-face bullying, becoming a motivational speaker and author as well as the subject of the documentary “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” which premiered at SXSW in 2015. She also got involved in lobbying Congress to pass an anti-bullying bill, and presented a TEDx talk— “How do you define yourself?” — which has been viewed 9.6 million times. She credits her parents with teaching her not to allow herself to be defined by what was different about her. “You are the one that decides what defines you,” she says in the talk. She decided to let her goals, success, and accomplishments define her, not her outward appearance, and has used the many negative things directed at her “as a ladder to help me climb up to my goals.” She exhorts her audience to remember that “Brave starts here.”

The Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture series commemorates Arthur Curley's lifelong dedication to the principles of intellectual freedom and free public access to information.

Sponsored by Tugg Educational Films.

Lizzie Velasquez