Search engines were asked by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to grant the “right to be forgotten” in May, last year. This basically means that Europeans could ask the representatives of search engines like Google to delink any material related to them. This way, any harmful material that they wanted removed would no longer appear on the list of links, once the name of the person is typed in.
However, people should not be fooled into thinking that their names would not appear on the websites either. It is a known fact that the Internet never forgets and anything that has been published online will stay there. The original websites would still make the same references to the person, but they would not appear on search engine listings.
Much like the press and other media, search engines have the right to free speech, this is why the ruling was considered vague by some of their advocates, who said that free expression could be affected by this imposition.
Now it seems that the French regulators want to take it to the next level, ordering all of Google’s websites to grant the right to be forgotten. This includes the American versions as well.
Free expression supporters have reacted to this new request, saying that it will have a negative impact on the access to information:
“When we’re talking about a broadly scoped right to be forgotten that’s about altering the historical record or making information that was lawfully public no longer accessible to people, I don’t see a way to square that with a fundamental right to access to information,” said Emma Llannso, who works at the Center for Democracy and Technology, which was founded by companies such as Google.
In response to this, those who proposed the new law said that the vast amount of information available online will not be affected. They also pointed out the fact that Google has failed to forget many of the links that was asked to delink. Out of a million defamatory links, the company has removed less than half.
Given the fact that there are billions of pages online, there will be no harm if 400,000 of them will not show up at all. According to a news report issued by The Guardian, more than 99 percent of the web links removed from lists were not about public figures and contained very personal information.
Even so, news organizations are worried about the fact that some of the links to news articles will be erased in the future.
Up until now, if a French citizen asked Google to delist information related to him or her, the company would only remove those links from its European sites. Nevertheless, these would be available on its American sites, google.com, which can be accessed from France as well.
This is why the French regulators are asking the company to remove the links from all its locations. Google has refused to comply to this but the battle is not over and, if the French have it their way, it might be very difficult to draw the line between what we are supposed to see and what we are not.
Image Source: yournewswire