You know those signs “You don’t have to be mad to work here… but it helps”? Those are in every room at the European Court of Justice. Nowhere else would someone float the idea of a ‘Right to be forgotten’ Internet law and have it taken seriously.
As if being wiped off the face of Google in one evening courtesy of the pretty actress with an identical name as me1 landing the part of Annie Cresta in The Hunger Games movies, I now have to fight to prove any content I post is not “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”. If it is deemed such, I face having links to my content removed from the search engine’s results… at least in Europe.
I’m not alone. The BBC have been hit with an article about Merrill Lynch removed. As befits their style of journalism, it was probably crap, but that’s not the point.
See, it’s all down to how you define “irrelevant”. What frame of reference do you use? There’s an argument to be made that my entire site is largely irrelevant. It’s just a few Textpattern CMS plugins and the outpourings of random parts of my brain, which have nowhere else to go because they’d be censored or ridiculed or are otherwise unpublishable anywhere else.
I’m not curing world hunger, solving the energy crisis, or stopping big business from lining their pockets at the expense of the planet. Instead, I wrote a page that generates random Harry Potter book titles. Completely pointless in the grand scheme of things compared to our melting ice caps, simply designed as a bit of fun. But if it brings a smile to someone’s face and helps them through yet another day packed full of so-called “news”, anger and fear at corporate lobbying, government meddling, the march of the power elite, and relief from the one-way monologue of mainstream media, then from a Karmic standpoint it’s far more relevant to the reader than any page on the BBC’s site. But the fact remains that, in the eyes of some, I’m irrelevant. I can’t please everyone all of the time.
There are millions of other, equally irrelevant sites, such as:
- Badger badger badger (before it lapsed). Completely irrelevant, therefore could be removed from search results.
- Maddox who gets so much hate mail from whiny people who think it’s wrong to express an opinion, he’d probably be a prime candidate for this law. Except he’s American and 95% of the complaints are from that retarded excuse for a country with its overt censorship and backwards policy decisions (see what I did there: expressed an opinion, oops).
- Between Treacherous Objects is an insight into Jason Nelson’s slightly unhinged world. Completely irrelevant. Slightly creepy.
What annoys me is that this is a form of back-door policing and there’s no statute of limitations on when or who can (ab)use it. My glossary page makes vaguely humorous, possibly libelous references to various celebrities as a repeat in-joke for those that read the entire page. I just plucked the names from the ether.
If Charlotte or Cheryl or whoever take offence to the page, they have the right to contact me, just like anybody, and ask me to either tone it down or remove references. And I’d be more than willing to reword things or replace her name with any other celebrity.
My objection is that being able to cry directly to Google (right now) or A.N.Other search engine (probably in future) and request that stuff be removed from their results is like me going straight to the police and forcing them to go to the trouble of making my name ex-directory. If I’ve got a problem with a service, my first port of call should be to the people who run the service directly. Talk with them. Y’know, interact, negotiate, compromise, not go to the authorities. That should be an absolute last resort if the situation can’t be resolved amicably.
The difference here with this shining example of yet another badly implemented European law, is that not only does the person “wronged” have a say in whether the content is removed, but anyone in the whole world can make a complaint and have the page pulled. In the case of a search engine, one person’s irrelevance is another person’s gold mine. Imagine:
- A woman forcing Google to remove links to a video of her daughter’s sexual antics on YouPorn because she deemed the performance “inadequate”?
- Someone forcing Google to remove all links to sites that state the holocaust death toll was anything lower than six million. Their argument being that everyone else’s opinions are “irrelevant” since they believe the actual toll is exactly six million.
- The NSA forcing Google to remove any site links that mention Edward Snowden (that would include Wikipedia) because they deem information about him to be “no longer relevant”?
Contrived examples? Maybe, maybe not. But with such subjective terminology and no limits on reasons for listing removal, it’s a very slippery slope to sanitizing history from the public eye and limiting viewpoints to those with the deepest pockets. Just to be clear, the information would still be out there, but searching for it via all-powerful search engines would not return any direct hits, thus requiring people to search ‘around’ the subject to find sites that have internal links to the content you actually want. It’d be like 1995 BG (Before Google) all over again when it was a nightmare to find anything of any merit on the, then fledgling, Internet.
With the march towards semantic search, this legislation is potentially a massive barrier to helping people embrace the power of the Internet, which weighs about a strawberry. Thought I’d best link to that site so it has a chance of being indexed: the information is at least eight years out of date at the time of this writing so it’s “no longer relevant”. Thanks, European Court of so-called Justice.
1 She’s since changed her name, but that hasn’t affected the search results much.