Google has now notified Robert Preston that it will no longer show a link to his page about Merrill Lynch's problems 7 years ago. An EU court ruled in May that certain older stories containing embarrassing material must not be shown in search results if the search engine gets a request to remove the link.
Google challenged the ruling, but now has to honor it. They say they currently have about 50,000 requests and have hired a number of paralegals to evaluate them.
The immediate result of this particular censorship will no doubt be that Stan O'Neal will have his mistakes presented to a lot more viewers because many stories about the censorship will link to the page. In the long run the page will no doubt be largely forgotten, and other pages with embarrassing material will essentially disappear from the Internet.
How serious do you think this form of Internet censorship will be? Can the removal be justified in some cases? After all, a criminal who commits a felony can usually have that fact removed from legal history after keeping clean for seven years or so. It does somehow seem right that any record of the conviction should be at least harder to find, to prevent a potential employer from doing a search such as "John Doe" "criminal record" and finding the legally-nonexistent information.
Edit: This may be a better link for the story:
There are problems with both links. The second one seems to have more useful information. The first link loaded very slowly for me, and had unrecognized security certificates. The second required answering a short survey to view. This suggests another subject: Where has our "free" information gone?
I can see this being abused as a way to rewrite history. Instead of owning up to their mistakes and trying to redeem themselves, a person or company can just hide the truth from the public.
People with money and good lawyers could force their "Right to be forgotten".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyle_and_Erik_Menendez (if they get out of jail with money)
As "ebook only" publications become mainstream, the courts could effectively ban a book.
This search has 2+ results in america and no mention result dropped because of a complaint. What about the EU?
The results aren't of the link quoted in the articles, so it could be possible for webmasters to bypass the lawsuit induced purge of history by changing the page's url.
For me it's more than just about the Internet. It's the EU becoming much too powerful and when that happens it is wrong. I hope Google will remove all of its services from Europe. Then lets see how people from Europe react.
I don't think there is really anything "free". Everything comes at a price. As long as Google is making its billions, and as long as it gets to decide how it presents its search links, and where the information comes from, the information can never really be "free".
I also think Europe hasn't really been free in a long long time. The EU has become much too powerful for its boots.
The right to be forgotten
Please, no. I do not agree.
This is an ongoing discussion here in Brazil, because this news has hit us and the institutions here tend to take into account what happens in the US and EU...
Do I have the right to be forgotten? If I'm involved in a family argument my neighbours listen and make a video of, then post on youtube, maybe in the short term people who don't know me might think I'm an angry guy. This could include a potential employer. I apply for a job, he googles my name, watches this video and... "I'm sorry, I don't think you'd fit in here, you have a temper."
This could be one of the positive things about this new vector of right to intimacy and privacy.
Now strech this idea, and imagine everyone involved in a tiny-to-medium scandal having every content about them removed from the search engines. This would virtually mean "there is no information". The consequence would be a dangerous compression to the right to free speech and expression, as well as the right to be informed.
Who would benefit from this? I don't think this would be a win-win relation.
Thanks, @Da Rossa, for your thoughts on this. I originally started the thread because it is clear this is an issue with importance, and one where it is difficult to balance the competing interests for more or less information. Notice that in no case is the page in question made unavailable, and in a lot of cases it would simply forbid associating a person's name with a comment he had stupidly posted several years in the past or perhaps his enemy had posted a comment and dropped a bombshell with his name on it.
What about the database of names/articles the search engine must keep? A good target for a hacker, perhaps. Who is trustworthy enough to decide whether a certain combination of name and page is sensitive enough to require excludion from search results? Exactly when should the page author be notified, and what should he/she be told? Unless the name excluded was a likely search key, perhaps everyone would be better off if she was not told.
Apparently Brazil is also thinking about possibly implementing something like this. It would be interesting to know about plans there and in any other country or region. If the idea becomes popular, it is sure to be offered as an amendment to numerous international trade agreements.
While I completely understand the intentions of laws like this, I think it is still absolutely ridiculous. I believe there are already laws that protect individuals against libel and other personally destructive lies. However if you behave in a certain way that makes you look bad I believe you should be fully responsible for those actions. We have court systems and other methods of protecting the innocent.
Censoring the internet is not a method of protecting the innocent it is a method of deceit, deception, and presenting biased information. It's terrifying in this day and age that developed countries would even consider something of this magnitude. Hopefully the global community can push against this type of ridiculousness and protect internet freedom.
You are surely right about the effect this "feature" will have in the long run if implemented widely. It will be used to protect the big names, and be difficult or impossible for the small guy to use. The argument is strong that the average guy, who is not a public figure, should under some circumstances have a "do over" option. If a way could be found to give the gal who got her criminal record expunged, or the guy who wrote something really stupid, to NEVER have the information removed from the Internet but have search not find it easily -- probably for a fairly steep price, maybe $200 plus $5 per affected page, I might consider supporting it. I would want to be sure there was no possibility of "feature creep" which could ultimately protect public figures who ought to be held responsible.
|What about the database of names/articles the search engine must keep? A good target for a hacker, perhaps. Who is trustworthy enough to decide whether a certain combination of name and page is sensitive enough to require excludion from search results? Exactly when should the page author be notified, and what should he/she be told? Unless the name excluded was a likely search key, perhaps everyone would be better off if she was not told. |
Well THAT is the difficult part, because this would have to be assessed from case to case, which is impracticable. I have made a ridiculous 45s video back in '04 which is now tied to my name, and people could search for it.
|Apparently Brazil is also thinking about possibly implementing something like this. |
Careful there. Do not trust Brazil. It took Snowden accusing "Obama of spying on Dilma" for them to approve the Internet Civil Framework Act. They would take years to do that. In here, the right to be forgotten is being implemented isolately via Judiciary Branch. And, unlike common law countries, there is no binding precedent here, so the juridical safety is not as strong as in the US, for example.
|Censoring the internet is not a method of protecting the innocent it is a method of deceit, deception, and presenting biased information. It's terrifying in this day and age that developed countries would even consider something of this magnitude. Hopefully the global community can push against this type of ridiculousness and protect internet freedom. |
Clay, the problem is the minorities always have a greater voice, believe me. Could be the so-called oppressed minorities, which are heard one way or another, or the small number of interested corporations, which have already made pressure against Internet Neutrality. The minority, in this case, is 'evil'.
|The argument is strong that the average guy, who is not a public figure, should under some circumstances have a "do over" option |
Since 2003 (I have a reason to pick that year), it is veeeery thin the line separating the "public figure" from the "non-public figure". Anyone can become public with a bit of creativity and/or opportunity and/or luck.