Godwin’s Law And The ‘Right To Be Forgotten’


Nearly 25 years ago, Mike Godwin, a Washington-based attorney, came up with “Godwin’s Law.” His law, or theory if you will, that stated that: “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” That is, it becomes almost inevitable.

Recently, Godwin sat on a congressional panel to discuss the “right to be forgotten,” the notion that people have some right to control what appears about them online. The ruling, however, was particularly unfavorable. Godwin describes the ruling as “going against the fantasy we have where we believe we have control over what we say and do online.”

In terms of controlling our online identity and the intellectual property rights of what we publish, we live in an interesting and often confusing time. This is the first moment in human history where individuals have had the agency to be heard around the world on a very large scale. It used to be that you had to have a mass-medium to do it. Now, everyone is a publisher of sorts: an autobiographer, musician, or poet. Godwin describes this evolution as “consciousness-changing” and I am inclined to to agree. “We’re in that intergenerational moment where people are coming to terms with the consequences of their online interaction and interactivity. It’s new and it’s unprecedented.”

Click here to view the related article from The Washington Post in full.