Ungoogle me, please

Seattle attorney Shakespear Feyissa was accused of attempted sexual assault while attending Seattle Pacific University in 1998.  He was never charged with a crime and naturally, not convicted.  But since the allegations were covered in the school paper’s online edition they are cached in Google and easily uncovered for anyone who searches his name.

SPU agreed to remove the story from the school paper but when administrators approached the student editors they said no way.  Chris Durr, editor of The Falcon Newspaper said:

We explained to them, if they wanted to start down a path of removing historical archives and pulling it from the public sphere, what they’re doing is censorship.  We basically said, sorry, we have principles in journalism that don’t allow us to put stuff in the memory hole and pretend it never happened.

(“Seattle attorney finds that the Internet won’t let go of his past”, Seattle Times, Aug. 15).


  • Winston, Smith, call your office,

  • Scott Greenfield also has a commentary on the case.

  • Another tough issue. The real truth is if he was guilty, he is getting much less than he deserved. If he was innocent of the crime, he is getting tragically screwed. That’s the big picture but in the small picture, the editor is right. It is just censorship and I can see why they would refuse to take it down. But would it be a better idea if papers withheld names until a conviction? I don’t know. Either way, it is a moot point now. It is out there.

  • If this was a regular newspaper would this discussion even be happening?

  • Ah, no.

  • The editor wants to keep the story. Fine. But I think she is under an obligation to correct the story. In fact, I think the paper should have to make the correction in FRONT of the web page that includes the story.

  • There is a compromise position that the paper could take if it was so-inclined. The paper could use a robots.txt file to stop indexing of the one story, thereby keeping the record intact on thier webpage while solving his complaint.

    I think that would be the way to go if he had been accused of something less serious, such as typical college tom-foolery. Sexual assualt though… thats a tough one…

  • Correct the story how? They never said he was convicted. He was charged and the school thought he was a threat to the students. It never did revoke his suspension.

    This is the third comment I have written on this issue. Maybe a personal record. I just find the issue so interesting because I switch positions on it every time I think about it. I’m channeling my inner Mitt Romney.

  • By the way, this is a great quote:

    “It’s a private university — they have every legal right to come in and take this article down, but for some reason they’re asking my permission to take it down,” she said. “That’s permission I cannot give because of journalistic ethics, which, I might add, we are taught at this school.”

    Incoming Editor Evi Sztajno