January 23, 2021
Suppose you are convicted of a crime, but then get the conviction annulled. The law says that you’ve never been convicted. You have no criminal record. You’re set for life, right?
Unfortunately, there’s that troublesome thing called “The Internet.” Once news of your conviction hits cyberspace, it’s in cyberspace forever.
Well… maybe not.
The Boston Globe recently announced an initiative it is calling “Fresh Start,” which will allow people to ask the newspaper to update or anonymize past coverage of them online. Says the Globe, “Similar to ‘right to forget’ programs that have cropped up in a number of newsrooms across the country, the undertaking is meant to address the lasting impact that stories about past embarrassments, mistakes, or minor crimes, forever online and searchable, can have on a person’s life.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer launched a similar online initiative in 2019, curtailing the use of mugshots and allowing people who have received court expungements to apply for their names to be removed from the site. The Globe’s “Fresh Start” program does not require people to get an annulment. Anyone seeking to take part need only fill out a short form online with an explanation of why they are requesting a review, including any relevant court documents.
This obviously won’t work unless large search engines like Google and Bing decide to take part, but it’s certainly a start.