Our View: Should we have a right to backspace?

DKS Editors

Do you ever scroll through your Facebook or Twitter and see something you wish you could take back? Perhaps you angrily ranted at a professor about a bad grade or spilled deep feelings about your ex. It’s stupid and embarrassing and you didn’t think before you shared it with the world.

The state of California is now trying to allow minors to do just that. Although the legislation — which Gov. Jerry Brown will decide on by mid-October — only applies to those under 18, states typically have followed California’s lead in online privacy laws.

The bill would grant teens a legal “right to delete” photos, Tweets, status updates and other material from social media.

After all, such messages can get teens into big trouble. It was the heat of the moment that allegedly cost William Koberna a degree from Kent State.

Koberna, a former student, took to Twitter and Facebook in July 2012 to voice his frustration with Financial Aid, mentioning President Lester Lefton’s name and threatening to shoot up campus.

Just days after the Colorado movie-theater massacre, his words turned into national headlines after police showed up at his house and arrested him.

If applied to all of us who simply make mistakes and post before we think, does the idea of a backspace on Facebook and Twitter make sense? Proponents think so.

Opponents say it creates more problems than it solves. As difficult as it is, Internet regulation shouldn’t be controlled by individual states, they say, but the federal government. More requirements for social-media companies could actually cause more of an invasion of privacy because they would need more information about each user — such as the state in which he or she lives.

We feel this kind of regulation, while well-intended, muddles the already complicated issue of a government-regulated Internet. Freedom of expression should allow for us to make these mistakes and not be able to take them back.

Further, it sets an odd legal precedent. If we knew we could erase a tweet, wouldn’t we be more encouraged to rant and say hateful things? Even if William Koberna could’ve hit backspace on his threats, wasn’t the damage already done and the proof already there?

The right to take something back is something we don’t have in real life. If we don’t think before we talk, we learn there are consequences. If we say something offensive to someone’s face, we can’t make them un-hear it. It creates a scary futuristic realm, something that late-1990s Radiohead warned us about.

Let’s go back to the write-an-angry-letter-but-don’t-send-it mentality. There are plenty of proven options to relieve stress and anger, and if social media is your sole outlet for unfettered rage, there might be some other things in your life to reconsider.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.