IMDb announced today that entertainment professionals can now choose whether to display their age and other demographic information on their profiles. Screen performers’ union SAG-AFTRA had pushed for the change for years, viewing it as a front in the war on ageism in Hollywood.
The new policy lets anyone with an IMDb page claim their profile and choose whether their age and birth year, birth name, alternate names and other demographic information show on their profiles. Although performers’ ages will remain on places like Wikipedia, the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA believes the policy will discourage age-based discrimination.
In a letter to union members (reported by Variety), SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said she worked closely with IMDb for several months to influence the policy shift. “This means professionals can choose how they want to represent themselves to fans and industry decision-makers,” she wrote. “And it will make it easier for casting directors, producers and others to discover and hire talent from all backgrounds for their project.” In addition, Drescher noted that the new policy covers free and paid IMDb accounts.
IMDb released a statement confirming the change, noting that the new guidelines "were developed in close collaboration with many leading organizations specializing in anti-bias, bullying prevention, and diversity, equity, and inclusion."
Col Needham, IMDb's founder and CEO, said "As trusted sources for entertainment fans and industry decision-makers to discover talent from all backgrounds, IMDb and IMDbPro are uniquely positioned to help support and accelerate progress towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive entertainment industry. We are profoundly grateful to GLAAD, SAG-AFTRA, and other leading organizations for collaborating with us to support their communities and champion more inclusive discovery and hiring throughout the entertainment industry."
IMDb, which Amazon owns, spent years resisting the change. In 2016, California passed a law barring websites from publishing the ages and birthdates of performers. It was a popular law with performers, as over 2,300 people asked IMDb to remove their ages in the three months following the bill’s passage. However, IMDb refused to oblige, filed an injunction based on First Amendment rights and won. (SAG-AFTRA and the state of California appealed, but an appeals court upheld the initial ruling.)
Although ageism isn't limited to any single industry, Hollywood is a textbook example — especially towards women. Dame Helen Mirren hasn’t minced words on the subject, describing the practice as “fucking outrageous” in a 2015 interview. “We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”
Update, 5:30PM ET: This story has been updated to include IMDb's confirmation and details on why the company made these changes.