Do people have the right to be forgotten on the internet? [Campaign Middle East]
(Campaign Middle East Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A controversial European court ruling earlier this year gave people 'the right to be forgotten'. Despite the outcry from the fourth estate regard- ing freedom of press and the perils of censorship, internet giant Google earlier in the month agreed to remove links to 50 of its pages. In effect, as The Independent put it, some of Europe's most notorious criminals have "successfully sanitised their past".
John Oldfield, Regional Creative Leadership Officer at Pirana, says of the issue, "I find it ironic that in this age of reality TV, celebrity wor- ship, and talent shows offering overnight fame that "the right to be forgotten" should suddenly be such a lively topic. That apart, this isn't really about the right to be forgotten, but the right to have certain sensitive infor- mation that is personally embarrassing deleted from the internet - specifically Google. The argument, ostensibly between those who support the personal right to privacy and those who argue for media freedom of expression, is a tricky one. Google is not a news vehicle so the phrase 'freedom of expression' seems a bit mis- placed in this context. Since I have always had sympathy for the underdog, I am on the side of the individual and not the behemoth corporation in this instance. This is about the deletion of sensitive per- sonal information, after all, not evidence relating to nefarious behaviour or crimi- nal activity."
Yet, Nadim Khammar, Associate Director of Digital Media at Optimedia, feels such 'self-censorship', even if car- ried out by giants like Google, could be the symptom of an Orwellian malaise: "It pro- motes censorship and revokes the public's right to informa- tion and legitimate journalism. It could lead to a manipulation of the law by criminals and powerful individuals, while undermining the public's capability to access accurate and verifiable information. Thinking to the future, we could be denying access to vital information at the expense of a few individuals who are look- ing to cover their embarrassing tracks. A retraction of the arti- cle by the actual publisher would be a solution, not the removal of web links."
Nicolaas Langereis, Dir- ector of Social Media at SMG MENA, also feels that the hyper-surveillance world that social media creates can actu- ally nip in the bud many an interesting career. "Perfectly qualified judges, lawyers and other public officials would not have been chosen 10 or 20 years ago, if all their drunken college antics would have seen daylight on a social network. People will make mistakes; an error of judgment is easily made, but it can haunt you forever during your life and career. I think Google (and other data capture companies) should listen and yield to this question." So the jury is indeed out on this one. While Nadim Khammar feels such censorship is akin to "punch- ing holes in free knowledge", Nicolaas Langereis believes that "the idea of a personal data cleaner company could actually be a great business model."
Wait a minute...
John Oldfield Pirana
"Since I have always had sympathy for the underdog, I am on the side of the individual and not the behemoth corporation in this instance."
Nadim Khammar Optimedia
"It could lead to a manipulation of the law by criminals and powerful individuals, while undermining the public's capability to access accurate and verifiable information."
Nicolaas Langereis SMG MENA
"People will make mistakes; an error of judgment is easily made, but it can haunt you forever during your life and career."
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