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Takedown demands:
Setting criteria before the requests come
An ethics lesson

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Takedown Demands: Setting Criteria before the requests come
by John Bowen

Description
When the requests come for your staff to take down materials already published either in print or online, what criteria will you use to make the decision – and why?

Students will examine the following questions:
• What are Takedown Demands?
• What some reasons for the requests?
• What legal and ethical principles might be involved?
• What criteria will you use to make your decision
• Should you develop written guidelines for the eventual decisions? 

Objectives
• Students will read and examine two articles addressing takedown requests.
• Students will examine two possible takedown request scenarios and apply concepts from the reading.
• Students will draft a policy addressing what to do when a takedown request occurs.

Common Core State Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives. Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.

Length
150 minutes (three 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Takedown Demands
Responding to Takedown Demands

Lesson step-by-step
Day 1
1. Introduction — 5 minutes
What would you do if you edited an online news site and someone requested a story they were quoted in was removed? Would you comply with the request? Write down your decision.

2. Share introduction answers — 5 minutes
Ask students to share what they decided and state the rationale they used to make the decision.

3. Student discovery — 20 minutes
Have students go to Takedown Demands on JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee site and Responding to Takedown Demands on the SPLC’s site. This can be done at the beginning of class.

Have students take note on the articles on the handout in preparation for class discussion. This will ultimately lead to developing guidelines for your staff and ethics manuals.

4. Group discussion — 20 minutes
As a whole class, or in small groups, have students discuss the following questions:
• What are legal considerations for taking down coverage?
• What are ethical considerations for down coverage?
• Which arguments make the most sense for your student media?
• Which alternatives create the most logical solutions for your media?
• What types of requests might lead to information removal?
• Other thoughts as locally developed.

Day 2
1. Review — 7 minutes
Project the following:
–Please jot down three things you remember learning in the previous class.

Once students have written the three things, randomly call on several students asking them to share what they wrote.

3. Grouping — 2 minutes
Ask students to get in a group of 5. Teacher could number class off using numbers 1 through

4. Scenario 1 discussion — 20 minutes
Ask students to read the following situation. You can project it onto a screen:

A former student contacts your student media and says she has been told there are things in her past that will prevent her from being hired for a job in law enforcement in your town. She knows there is negative coverage about her being caught for cheating on AP tests and for alcohol use her junior year. Your student media reported both events. She argues that the coverage is keeping her from this job, and if allowed to remain, will block her from others. She wants the material removed.

Remind students they should use the principles raised in the readings, what would students do? Why?

Remind students they must find a conclusion, and they should list their reasoning. Groups will share their reasoning and decision with the class during the next class.

5. Scenario 2 discussion — 20 minutes
Ask students to read the following situation. You can project it onto a screen:

A varsity football player contacts your adviser and asks that an article about his removal from the football team for breaking team rules be taken down. He alleges that the article was incorrect, and because of that, will keep him from his university’s football program. What will you do?

Again, remind students they should use the principles raised in the readings, what would students do? Why?

Remind students they must find a conclusion, and they should list their reasoning. Groups will share their reasoning and decision with the class during the next class.

Day 3
1. Review — 5 minutes
Ask groups to review their decision and rationale from the previous class.

2. Group share and discussion — 15 minutes
Each team shares its conclusions and rationale.

3. Policy guideline formulation — 15 minutes
Each team will prepare guidelines for handling Takedown Demands to share with the other groups.

4. Discussion about the guideline — 15 minutes
As a class, students should reach a consensus on a guideline statement for their ethics and staff manuals.

Extra critical thinking exercise:
• What could happen if the “right to be forgotten” decision involving Google in the European Union (EU) allows individuals to delete information, videos or photographs about themselves from internet records, and thus prevent them from showing up on search engines became law in the US?  The Guardian reports thousands of articles have disappeared because, under the decision, there could be classified “no longer relevant, inadequate, outdated or excessive.” Truth does not seem to be a factor. How would that change journalism in this country, and for the future?

The EU “right to be forgotten” ruling specifies that any information must be “irrelevant or outdated” but anti-censorship bodies have argued Google does not choose what appears in its results more than show what is freely available on the internet.

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