EU's Right to Be Forgotten Rules Amount to Search Engine Censorship

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2014-12-09 Print this article Print
Search Censorship

It exposes the obsolescence of EU political thinking about the validity of modern life. Old media are special and to be protected from interference. New media can be meddled with because new things are illegitimate.

Right to be forgotten censorship is different also because the government isn't doing it. They've outsourced the job to corporations. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other search engines choose how to apply the law, and these companies would naturally differ in how they enforce the rules. So links for a specific person's name might be censored on Google Search but not Bing.

It also favors the wealthy, aristocrats, gangsters, politicians and others, while disadvantaging the poor, minorities and the young. Rich and powerful people can hire consultants, researchers and employees to plan a reputation-management strategy for maximum public cleansing of reputation. People at the bottom of European society may not have the time, money, language skills or knowledge to use the system.

Another problem is that the effect of the right to be forgotten is that search engines simply become inaccurate. Search engines don't exist to tell the truth about reality, only to tell the truth about what's on the Internet at any given time. With each passing month, the right-to-be-forgotten rules are making search engines increasingly unreliable and false.

One criticism of the right-to-be-forgotten push is that it's really designed to counter American cultural influence. Search engines are incredibly powerful arbiters of what content is valued, popular and influential. And all the major search engines are American.

Sabotaging this foreign source of influence by making them inaccurate and therefore less useful is seen as a way to fight back against American cultural imperialism, which used to be flippantly referred to on the Continent as "Coca-colonization." But lately it has been flippantly referred to in France as "GAFA," which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

The worst and most dangerous aspect of Europe's right-to-be-forgotten law has emerged in the EU's clumsy and incredibly short-sighted attempts to prevent the rules from being circumvented, specifically in two ways.

The first way Google has tried to "circumvent" the right to be forgotten is by informing news publishers when index changes affect their content. In some cases, publications have re-published some stories so they'll be re-indexed by the search engines and thereby try to avoid the inability of Web users to find the stories. So EU authorities have ordered Google to stop informing them—essentially censoring Google from talking about censored search results.

The second way is that as the European version of Google becomes less accurate and less reliable, European users will naturally choose the American version——instead. Soon the EU may order Google to censor all versions of its search engine worldwide.

The epicenter of European resistance to American cultural influence has for many decades been France. And France is leading the charge to censor globally. The French data protection authority is headed by Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who also heads the EU's group of 28 national privacy regulators and is lobbying hard (and probably successfully) to impose France's rule for global censorship to the entire EU.

That's right: European governments are ordering the censorship of American search engines in America. And everywhere else, too.

This is the most dangerous aspect of the right to be forgotten by far. If Google accepts this order, and it's allowed to stand, it sets a precedent that any censoring government can assert its own right to censor globally. So China will ban mentions of the Dalai Lama and Tiananmen Square on search engines worldwide. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan will insist that pictures of women with uncovered hair be banned globally. Turkey will require the search engines to erase all references to an Armenian Genocide.

Each of these censoring governments will claim the same rights as the EU—that the search engine inaccuracies are imposed for the good of society, for the sake of public morality and to promote accuracy in the search results.

In short, the EU is initiating a cascading series of events that will ruin the Internet by making anything censored anywhere censored everywhere.

The EU's right to be forgotten rules are extremely dangerous, unfair and wrong.

Everyone who cares about the Internet, about freedom of speech and access to Internet search engines that actually reflect what's on the Internet should vocally and actively oppose the EU's right to be forgotten.


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