My Social Permanence Matrix is one way to model the different rules each social network applies to editing and deleting posts.
Lawyers have identified the edit button (and by extension the delete button) as being legally important – the edit button: can the past be erased.
The four quadrants are:
- Editable and Delible – Facebook posts and comments. They can be removed from the record, permanently
- Indelible yet editable – Hipchat messages you can use the substitution command to make quick edits to your last message while Quora answers are editable but all revisions are kept making your original answer indelible.
- Ineditable and Delible – Tweets can be deleted once sent but you can’t edit them. This also applies to a certain extent to Snapchat messages that you know will be deleted once received by the recipient.
- Ineditable and Indelible – chat messages cannot be changed once sent, nor can Trip Advisor reviews. Rise releases are stored in perpetuity too.
As can be seen from this simple matrix, there are already several different ways to handle the permanence of social content.
And now, with GDPR looming (May 2018) for most networks, social permanence presents new issues.
At stake are competing priorities such as:
- revisionism – the ability to “change history”
- right to be forgotten – the ability to be erased from history on request
- data integrity – the need to maintain a dataset in its original form – for example for audit purposes
Many social networks maintain multiple digital objects, each potentially requiring slightly different editability rules – whether that be a photo, a post, a comment, a like, a snap, a check in, a release, or even a view.
Right now, individual users tend to have primacy in terms of features available. For example:
- I can clear my search history
- I can edit Facebook posts to present an entirely different point of view to the one I originally thought
- Politicians can delete tweets of views they no longer hold, or where they were wrong
However, as the shared, multi-stakeholder requirements around media increase in importance then the user must release power to others. I think the latest legal challenge in the USA over whether the president has the right, under the constitution, to filter out the tweets of certain citizens on a public network like Twitter, is very interesting indeed! (Trump tramples US Constitution by blocking Twitter critics – lawsuit)
I think the social networks will need to store not just the post but the revisions (and make them available) – in the way that Quora will store revisions of any answers I put on its site.
For us at Rise we will be adjusting our rules to so that we keep a copy of original releases (and allow users to find them if needed) but if you re-release that will be the one everyone sees by default, they’ll have to drill down to find the original release.
This seems like best practice of course but then as you quash one issue another emerges… does this comply with GDPR and the right to be forgotten?
Whatever the reality, there are going to be lots more jobs for digital lawyers in the future!