A California law requiring Amazon's IMDb to scrub actors' ages from its site could pave the way for other new measures aimed at squelching truthful information, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says in new court papers.
"If it is constitutional for the government to suppress IMDb’s public site from reporting age information, there will be virtually no limit to the government’s ability to suppress the reporting of many other truthful facts by many other sources," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argues in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week. "In an age where the media is struggling to combat the pernicious effects of false news, the truth should not be suppressed."
The organization, along with a host of legal scholars, is backing IMDb's effort to block enforcement of the new law, which was passed last year at the urging of the Screen Actors Guild and took effect on January 1.
The measure, which reflects an effort to combat age discrimination in Hollywood, requires providers of “commercial online entertainment employment" services to remove information about paying subscribers' ages at their request.
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 then appending 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 had in the past because casting agents and producers, who want to hire younger people, had learned her actual age. A jury rejected Hoang's claims in 2013.
IMDb sued to overturn the law last November, arguing that it unconstitutionally censors truthful information. "Prejudice and bias, not truthful information, are the root causes of discrimination," the company argues in its lawsuit.
Earlier this month, the company asked U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco to issue a preliminary injunction banning enforcement.
Other organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wikimedia and Center for Democracy & Technology filed a separate friend-of-the-court brief that sides with IMDb. Those groups also argue that the law is unconstitutional.
"The denial of the age information barred by this statue hinders the public’s ability to engage in the very important debates ... regarding age discrimination in the movie industry," the organizations write. "At the present time, when so much public concern is voiced regarding the mass dissemination of false information, it is critically important to preserve the public’s right to receive truthful information."