I once got in an argument with a student who insisted the old internet legend of Mr. Rogers being a sniper in Vietnam was true because she read it on the internet. After all, she pointed out, why would anyway waste time posting something on the internet that wasn’t true.
This is an issue the Internet Movie Database, one of the most popular websites on the internet, has come under fire for in recent months, not only because of its now-famous age discrimination filed by Junie Hoang but also from other complaints, like those from Texas Councilman Shane Scott, who IMDb confused with the same-name soft-core pornography actor.
The Wall Street Journal also lists other minor, but still significant errors, like when actor Robert Lesser was presented with a birthday cake in May on the set of a film he was shooting although Lesser’s birthday is in October (the website has since been corrected, but IMDbpreviously listed that the New York-born Lesser was born May 28, 1938 in Los Angeles instead of October 22, 1942, his actual date of birth). Lesser actually penned an article for The Hollywood Reporter late last year about his difficulty in getting IMDb to correct the wrong information.
Even if the information is accurate, many argue that they aren’t relevant. Actress Amy Weber claims to not only be younger than the 1970 birth year listed on IMDb, but also questions why her profile also lists her measurements, asking, Why does everyone need to know my bra size?” Others, like Rosanna Arquette, simply dislike the photos that are posted on their IMDb profiles (Arquette’s profile currently has 169 photos, many of which are not from the movies she’s appeared in but from red carpet events).
IMDb Chief Executive Col Needham, who created the site, admits that because of the sheer amount of profiles (over four million), there are bound to be errors, and claims that his staff makes every effort to correct the mistakes quickly, though Lesser’s experience would suggest otherwise. But the problem is that some stars want the information to be inaccurate. Age-shaving is an age-old (no pun intended) Hollywood technique, often as an attempt to be cast for younger roles (the precise reason why the youthful-looking Junie Hoang did not want her actual age listed on the site).
Needham and IMDb aren’t budging on the birth date issue and will not remove information, only correct it. Perhaps the issue isn’t that the information is out there — one can just about find out anything if enough hunting is done — but how easy IMDb makes it to find such details. But if IMDb doesn’t list information like birth dates, what’s stopping a website like Wikipedia from listing it? And do casting directors really care that much about age? These are questions that actors have to contend with, because the ultra-popular IMDb isn’t getting any smaller.