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Making informed takedown decisions


When the requests come – and they will come – for your student staff to take down materials already published either in print or online, what criteria will they use to make the decision – and why? This is the second of two lessons related to takedown requests, and students will practice making informed decisions regarding takedown requests using case studies. This lesson should be used only after the lesson “Introducing students to takedown requests.”


  • Students will evaluate criteria for takedown requests and consider criteria for evaluating such requests.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of specific terminology or ethical considerations relevant to takedown requests.
  • Students will apply ethical and journalistic standards to specific case studies.

Common Core State Standards

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.


120 minutes



Article: Takedown demands? Here is a roadmap of choices, rationale via JEA

Article: Responding to takedown demands via SPLC

Internet access and student computers if available

Blackboard or whiteboard

Teacher laptop and digital projector

Handout: Takedown demands ethical guidelines model

Large butcher paper and markers


Lesson step-by-step

1. Assessing background—10 minutes

Instruct students to write down three points they remember learning about takedown requests from the previous lesson. Once students have written the three points, randomly call on several students and ask them to share what they wrote. Correct any points of misinformation, and refer to the readings linked under the materials (read in the first lesson) if concepts need to be reinforced.

2. Small group case studies—20 minutes

Place students into groups of 5 to discuss the following scenario, which should be visible using a projector or written on the white board:

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 keep her from getting other jobs as well. She wants the material removed..

Remind students they should use the principles raised in the readings to decide what to do. What would the group do? Why? If groups need prompting, ask them to consider the following questions:

  • Is the article damaging to her? What kind of damages?
  • Is the article true or is there new information about whether she cheated?
  • What is more important to protect, the truth or her reputation?
  • Are there viable alternatives to taking the article down and/or leaving posted?

Remind students they must find a conclusion, and they should explain their reasoning in writing (or typed if computers are available). Groups will share their reasoning and decision with the class after all case studies have been considered.

After 10-20 minutes, project the next case study for consideration:

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 to determine the best course of action. What would students do? Why? Use these questions to help get groups started:

  • Is the article damaging to the player? What kind of damages has the article caused?
  • Is the article true or is there new information about whether the charges?
  • What can be verified about the truth of the article?
  • What is more important to protect, the truth or the player?
  • Are there viable alternatives to takedown and/or leaving posted?

Remind students they must find a conclusion, and they should list explain their reasoning in writing or in a typed document.

3. Sharing case study decisions and class deliberation—30 minutes

Each team shares its conclusions and rationale for the two case studies. Urge students to react to answers from other groups and push for critical analysis.

4. Policy guideline formulation—30 minutes

After the discussion, each group should will formulate their own guidelines for handling Takedown Demands to share with the other groups. Instruct groups to make a list of guidelines on large butcher paper, using the Takedown Demands Model Guidelines as a starting point. Emphasize that students should not just copy the SPRC model but use it as a conceptual guide, localizing and changing as needed for their school, their media, and their concerns based on experience. As groups finish, hang up the butcher paper sheets around the room, and engage the class in a discussion about the similarities and differences of each group’s list in order to find consensus on a class guideline. As a class, students should reach a consensus on a guideline statement for their ethics and staff manuals.

Assessment—take home

Ask each student to blog about their creation, share it on social media, or otherwise attempt to inform their community about the guidelines and then reflect on that process.


To facilitate higher level of discussion, consider asking advanced students to research, write and discuss about the following case study:

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 it simply shows what is freely available on the internet.