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September 2, 2014

More Boos for ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Ruling

As Google gets more and more requests from Europeans who want the search engine to “forget” certain pieces of information about them, the backlash is getting stronger against the EU court decision that forced the company to take action.

Among many pundits and expounders, the argument comes down to “the Internet just doesn’t work that way.” Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway sums it up this way:

The bizarre thing about this Court ruling, of course, is that removing information from a search engine’s servers doesn’t remove it from existence on the Internet. … Indeed, if you take the European court’s decision to its logical conclusion, then Europeans should have the right not only to have information removed from Google, but should also have the right to have it removed from the servers of the sources that the search results point to. In other words, the ruling would give seemingly give everyone in Europe the right to create their own Big Brother style memory hole, removing from existence information about them they don’t like even if it’s truthful.

Chris Gayomali of Fast Company hits similar turf, noting that “the vastness and velocity of the viral web makes it impossible for anyone to erase their digital trail completely.” Not to mention the actual work of cleaning up those servers:

One glance at the paperwork should give you a good idea of the enormity of the task ahead. Since investigations and judgment calls will need to be conducted by a human, one can imagine the backlog that would quickly accumulate. (Perhaps the company’s newly acquired advanced new artificial intelligence technologies could be put to work.)

And there’s the matter of Google itself being a private company. Jodie Ginsberg, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, points out in an opinion piece for CNN:

Search engines are not public bodies — and while there is a legitimate reason to worry about the way in which these organizations present search results, the way to fix that is certainly not through a vague and woolly ruling that leaves decisions about what is and is not in the public interest in the hands of a private body.

There is no legal oversight or appeals process built in to the ruling — the court simply leaves it up to Google and others to decide (independently of one another, a further recipe for chaos and confusion) what is and is not in the public interest.

Google’s own chief executive, Larry Page, stayed out of those weeds in an interview with the Financial Times. His points? The ruling not only might stifle Internet innovation, it could be a boon to repressive regimes, he says.

  • Paul McKelvey

    What about information that is wrong? In a US court of law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. On the Internet, there is no recourse against falsehood.

    The Internet has become a place where anyone can say anything and no one can defend against it. The people who enter content, and those who repeat that content through services like search engines, should be held accountable.

  • YONATAN C

    BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE FAILED THE POOR AND UNEMPLOYED MISERABLY. THEY HAVE INTENTIONALLY DELAYED AND POSTPONED THE UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION VOTE IN THE SENATE, UNTIL IT’S BECOME TOO LATE TO PASS. WHILE MILLIONS OF FAMILIES CONTINUE FACING EVICTION, HOME FORECLOSURES, BANKRUPTCY, AND HOMELESSNESS, THE TWO PARTIES HAVE WALKED AWAY FROM THE CRISIS. THEIR LACK OF COMPASSION AND COMMON DECENCY IS APPALLING. HOW CAN 2.6 MILLION UNEMPLOYED, AND FINANCIALLY RUINED PEOPLE, BE LEFT HUNG OUT TO DRY IN THE WIND WITHOUT SUPPORT? WE EVEN RECENTLY HELPED THE UKRAINE WITH BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN AID. WHAT ABOUT THESE FAMILIES HERE?

  • Vo2man

    We need to re-instate personal responsibility before we create more government programs. Period.

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