Free Speech or Age Discrimination? New Law Could Remove Actors' Ages from IMDb
Most of us are checking out an actor's age on IMDb or other movie sites because we can't believe how young they look or how old they really are. But members of the Screen Actors Guild claim employers are using that information against those in the entertainment industry, and they have the law to prove it.
California Assembly Bill No. 1687, which goes into effect January 1, 2017, requires any online entertainment employment service providers to remove a subscriber's age upon request. That means an actor can ask sites like IMDb to scrub her age from publication and the site must comply within five days. So will the law shield ageing actors from age discrimination? Or chill free speech online?
The bill's sponsor, Majority Leader Ian Calderon, said the bill "provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination." SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris agreed, claiming:
"It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood's casting process. This problem exists for all performers, but most distinctly for women. Performers create characters and often employ illusion to do so. That's acting ... Many actors have endured age discrimination of some sort throughout their careers. Those isolated, individual cases have now morphed into the almost-automatic age discrimination made possible by the online casting services. The information is put front and center before those making the decisions about whom to audition and whom to hire."
The bill is aimed at entertainment industry sites that allow paid subscribers to post information for prospective employers. Though designed primarily for actors, the law applies to all entertainment job categories, and any can make a removal request.
But not everyone is a fan of birth date scrubbing from the internet. According to Michael Beckerman, the president and CEO of the Internet Association, "Requiring the removal of factually accurate age information across websites suppresses free speech," he wrote in an op-ed. "This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors; rather it is about the right to present basic facts that live in the public domain. Displaying such information isn't a form of discrimination, and internet companies should not be punished for how people use public data."
Come next year, though, you might need to go to Wikipedia if you need confirmation John Stamos is really 53 years old.
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