A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a California law requiring IMDb to remove an actor’s age information upon request, an effort to fight age discrimination, was “clearly unconstitutional.” Ruling that “regulation of speech must be a last resort,” U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said the state should have tried less invasive options, like beefing up existing discrimination rules, rather than “censor a source of truthful information.”
AB 1687, passed in September 2016, requires database sites like IMDb — the Internet Movie Database — to remove an actor’s age if requested. The stated goal was to prevent discrimination in Hollywood casting against older actors, but IMDb said it violated the First Amendment.
In Tuesday’s ruling siding with IMDb, Chhabria described AB 1687 as a misguided law that should have instead aimed to fight discrimination against women, since age bias in Hollywood is “at root … far more a problem of sex discrimination.”
“The defendants barely acknowledge this, much less explain how a law preventing one company from posting age-related information on one website could discourage the entertainment industry from continuing to objectify and devalue women,” the judge wrote. “If the government is going to attempt to restrict speech, it should at least develop a clearer understanding of the problem it’s trying to solve.”
IMDb sued in November 2016, claiming that the recently passed AB 1687 would “chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information” without actually addressing age discrimination. SAG-AFTRA, the union for Hollywood actors, later joined the case in support of California.
Chhabria quickly sided with IMDb, issuing a preliminary injunction in early 2017 that barred the state from enforcing the law while the case progressed. At the time, he said it was “difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment.”