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Sex videos and the right to be forgotten

It’s sad to think of the pain that singer Jim Paredes is suffering now.

If anyone else had been involved, the matter would have been relegated to the sex scandal archives. But because this was Jim Paredes, who has taken a strong critical stand against this administration, the incident was politicized and used to besmirch not only the singer’s character, but also the entire opposition effort.

Even if Filipinos are among the top users of Pornhub—in December 2018, Pornhub ranked the Philippines first in time spent on the site for the fifth year running—mostly pro-Duterte supporters shamed Paredes for the video.

As Senator Leila de Lima wrote in a note last April 3, the video leak is a “mean tactic to stifle dissent and divert our attention from grave national issues and controversies incessantly hounding the Duterte regime.”

This is not the first time a private sex video has been leaked on the internet.

Among the cases involving celebrities are those of Parokya ni Edgar vocalist Chito Miranda and now-wife Neri Naig in 2013, and that of cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho with actresses Katrina Halili and Maricar Reyes in 2009.

In both cases, the men apologized. Also in both instances, the privacy leak was because of theft—Miranda’s hard drive and Kho’s computer files were stolen.

In Paredes’s case, no details have been revealed about who leaked the video. But it is certain that the singer did not upload it himself, meaning that it was also ‘stolen,’ in that it was likely recorded and shared on the internet without his consent.

In other words, Paredes is a victim. And even if he didn’t have to, he apologized for his “irresponsibility”—a brave response to adversity.

Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said at the April 3 Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum that “those who uploaded and shared the video could be held liable under the cybercrime law” (the Cybercrime Prevention Act) and that his agency is prepared to investigate the incident.

I’ve written about posting personal content to the internet, which never forgets. There are many stories of people who have lost jobs and ruined relationships after posting inappropriate messages or photos.

The same warning goes for photographing images and recording video—if it’s an intimate act, think twice or even three times.

There are consequences for intimate information reaching the public. Miranda, Naig, and Kho had to weather weeks of negative opinion, as does Paredes; Kho lost his professional license to boot.  

It can’t be denied, though, that intimate recordings serve an important purpose to many people such as OFWs and others in long-distance relationships, and perhaps in other circumstances I am not aware of. In any case, caution is the keyword.

But because communication technology is accessible and easy to use, there are many who have photos and videos from the past that they are now ashamed of. It’s agony to know that the information is out there, accessible in a few clicks.

Is there a way to remove all that damaging material? The European Union recognizes the pitfalls of the digital age and has come up with an interesting solution.

Demi Marks, in a 2016 article for the UCLA Entertainment Law Review, explains that in the European Union, “there exists a ‘Right to be Forgotten’, which allows one to petition Google and other search engines to “unlink” one’s identity from a website under certain circumstances.

“Following this unlinkage, the website continues to exist with the same content, but it no longer exists when a search is performed linking the persona to the article.”

Lauren Maxfield, writing for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, said the right to be forgotten, “first recognized by the European Court of Justice in 2014… stems from an individual’s right to privacy, which the court held in extremely high regard.”

A person is entitled to submit a ‘de-indexing’ request and “thus have a database or search engine delete links to information about him or her that is “inaccurate… inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.””

Maxfield argues that “proponents of the right to be forgotten claim that it is a necessary response to the rise of the Internet.

“Embarrassing information that in the past would have been hidden deep in archives or records, or that’s spread would have been limited to gossip, is now forever preserved on the pages of the Internet; the right to be forgotten helps individuals reclaim the privacy to which they used to be entitled.”

Perhaps our lawmakers can look into whether a similar law would benefit Filipinos? Meanwhile, Paredes and his family, as well as other victims of privacy breach, need to be strong and resilient and ride out the storm. This too, shall pass. 

I didn’t watch any of the videos mentioned. Those were private and none of my business.  / FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , Sex videos , sex scandal , Jim Paredes
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