Wednesday, 14 May 2014

letter and spirit or jot and tiddle

The High Court of the European Union ruled in favour of the “right to be forgotten” and is granting individuals the right to petition internet search-engines to remove indexed results that the individual esteems to be libelous, misleading, dated or simply incorrect—to include public documents and news articles. Search-engines do not host content and merely return results—based on several metrics which may or may not be biased, although we have been shown that the “internet” can be bought to skew perception or ease-of-access like when an oil company responsible for a grave environmental disaster paid to have negative publicity deflected or America’s assault on net-neutrality, and having a haunt from the past disappeared in one or several search engines does not mean that the offending characterization is gone and cannot be found with some old-fashioned muckraking;
the websites that archive such stories or photos have no mandate to take down their content just because it is no longer indexed but the hopes are that such unwelcome material will wither away. It is very significant to side for individual privacy and reputation and afford regular people the chance to challenge the medium, which is normally reserved for the powerful or litigiously patient, but it seems a lot of questions remain unaddressed and there’s no mechanism in place to queue ones petitions. What onus does the individual have to prove hardships caused and what are the criteria for infamy? Also—how specific would a take-down request need to be worded, since cause-celeb tends to splinter and branch-off down a dozen different pathways and the searchers and browsers would quickly find loop-holes? I think there’s little danger of white-washing or further compartmentalizing history in the ruling of the justices as it is presently issued and it will help undo some incriminating acts of youthful indiscretion and the like, so maybe some people will be able to take back a few poor choices—to an extent, but I still think it prudent to fear, in terms of censorship and revision, what sort of precedent might be prized from this right to be forgot.