The Right to be Forgotten v. Free Speech

This is a nice analysis from The Atlantic looking at the issues raised by the UN’s recent pronouncement that the free flow of information should be hindered as little as possible and that some enforcement of privacy laws, particularly in the EU, could be considered censorship with very little oversight or transparency.

The new UN report explicitly discusses the problems of limiting free expression on account of privacy concerns. It points to the 2010 case of an Italian court that convicted three Google executives for allowing a controversial video to be briefly posted on YouTube. “Holding intermediaries liable for the content disseminated or created by their users severely undermines” open rights of expression, the report noted. Pursuing intermediary Web entities like YouTube and Google “leads to self-protective and over-broad private censorship, often without transparency and the due process of the law.”

I am with my brethren in Europe on a great many privacy issues, but this is not one of them. Facts should not be erased from history and free speech is critical to the maintenance of democracy. I think there is room for cultural exceptions at the extremes (e.g., the German restriction on the display of Nazi imagery within Germany), but generally, facts should be protected.

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