A new California law aimed at preventing discrimination against actors could end up restricting a broad range of online publications, including news sites, from publishing truthful information.
That's according to Amazon's IMDb.com, which is asking a federal judge to declare the law unconstitutional. The measure, enacted in September, "sets a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent for other general purpose websites and news sources, and should be deeply troubling to all who care about free speech," IMDb.com says in a complaint filed late last week in federal court in the Northern District of California.
The law requires IMDb and any other providers of “commercial online entertainment employment" services to remove information about paying subscribers' ages at their request. (Amazon says IMDb is the only site that appears to meet the definition of commercial online entertainment services provider.)
The Screen Actors Guild backed the law, which aims to combat age discrimination in Hollywood. Tech companies and the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation opposed it, arguing that the measure infringes on companies' First Amendment right to publish truthful information. Opponents also said the law won't prevent age discrimination, especially because data about people's ages is available from other sources.
IMDb makes similar assertions in its lawsuit. "Prejudice and bias, not truthful information, are the root causes of discrimination," the company asserts. "The factual information being suppressed from IMDb is available from many other sources, not least including Wikipedia, Google, Microsoft (Bing), and Apple (Siri)."
The entertainment site is asking for the law to be struck down on the grounds that it violates free speech principles by attempting to curb its right to post factual information.
"Instead of targeting IMDb.com for hosting truthful information, California could instead seek to enforce (or bolster) already existing anti-discrimination laws against those in the entertainment industry who discriminate, or could take other steps to more effectively penalize those who are engaged in discrimination," the company writes.
California lawmakers passed the bill several years after actress Junie Hoang unsuccessfully sued Amazon for revealing her true age on IMDb.com. Hoang, who had a professional profile on IMDb, alleged that Amazon violated her privacy by accessing credit card data to discover that she was 40 years old, and appended that information to her profile.
The actress said in her original complaint that she looked younger than 40, but could no longer get as much work as she used to because casting agents and producers -- who want to hire younger people -- now know her true age. A jury rejected Hoang's claims in 2013.