Sewickley Academy alum among winners of national competition
Sparked by an interest in online privacy, a Sewickley Academy alum envisions a time when people can have questionable personal material removed from the internet.
Hayden Moyer, of Edgeworth, a 2013 Sewickley Academy graduate and junior at Allegheny College, was a member of one of five teams to win the National 2016 Letters to an Elected Official competition sponsored by Project Pericles.
Moyer, and his teammate Walter Stover, of Charlotte, N.C., both study economics at the Meadville college. A panel of judges selected the winning teams in that contest that promotes civic engagement.
The pair wrote to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) about online privacy, focusing on Europe's Right to be Forgotten, which allows citizens to petition things about themselves they deem unflattering online for potential removal.
“The reason that we chose this particular topic is because it's something that isn't available in the U.S. right now, so because it's happening now and it's still a very relevant topic for Europe and for us,” Moyer said.
As debates began becoming more mainstream, Moyer said “we thought we would serve as trailblazers in our generation's discussion of the topic.”
Along with their win comes $500 to be used in advancing their cause. Their plan is to create a website promoting digital privacy rights that serves as a database for cases supporting their mission. They're hoping this, along with their letter to Casey, will inspire legislative changes in the United States.
“The way the legislation would work, ideally, is that ... a citizen would be able to ask Google (and other search engines) to take this piece of web content out of their search engine. They have the right to accept or deny it,” Moyer said. “But they have to at least consider.”
Some examples of content that would be considered for removal includes sensitive personal information, “revenge pornography” and graphic photos that may disturb or upset based on the circumstances of the photo, according to the students.
“The whole point of the contest in general is ordinary citizens doing their homework in some kind of policy proposal, that civil discourse branching into some substantiated policy. The end goal when we were writing about this, which was to raise awareness for the issue and allow some kind of conversation to open and none yet in the U.S.,” Moyer said.
The pair learned through the experience that just because an issue is out there, does not mean that someone is already proactively trying to resolve it. When they found they were some of the first to start a push for legislation to monitor what search engines turn up, both of them were surprised.
“What it did help me understand was how to research public policy, and that can only be a good thing,” Moyer said.
Vince Russo is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.