15 May 2014
Yesterday, the news was awash with the story that a top EU court has ruled that Google must remove search results if people request them and if they link to “irrelevant” or “outdated” information. In theory it’s a great idea but how it could work in practice is the issue.
There is nothing more infuriating than inaccurate and irrelevant information being put out there thoughtlessly about those who have no opportunity to defend it or have it removed.
I think it’s fair to say that the internet has become a place where people can publish whatever they want, often with absolutely no consequences. I’ve had friends who’ve been defamed by disgruntled associates on the internet and it has affected their reputations unfairly and had an impact on their livelihoods, but there’s little they can do to stop it.
Personally, I think the internet shouldn’t be a place where people can hide. Spurious content published anonymously should be pulled instantly. People need to be held accountable and, in my opinion, there should be a protection layer there.
Having said that, whilst I believe that information should be removed if people can prove it’s no longer relevant or accurate, I would also raise the question of who is going to make that decision. The history of Wikipedia is a mammoth task in itself to tackle and that only represents a tiny fraction of the internet. And what about review sites like Trip Advisor. How much of that content is genuine and how much is published by malicious competitors?
Ultimately, it’s a complicated issue to tackle, but I think it’s fair that people reserve the right to disassociate themselves with false or outdated information by requesting its removal. What do you think? Does the law contradict freedom of speech or is it simply a necessary layer of protection for people and their personal data?