Last May, the European Union Court of Justice asserted a “right to be forgotten,” ordering Google and other search engines to remove “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” personal information from search results on demand.
Glossing over the difficulty of objectively deciding what kind of information might be “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive,” Google promptly complied. The web search giant created an application process through which individuals could quickly and easily register their demands that EU web users be forcibly made a little dumber. Maybe even as dumb as European Union Court of Justice judges.
Or maybe not. Turns out the EU’s censors want Google to implement their Orwellian “memory hole” globally. After all, EU web users, who on average run smarter than European Union Court of Justice judges, know they can bypass Google.fr and go to Google.com for information their masters don’t want them to have.
To its credit, Google is resisting the idea, citing the recommendations of an “advisory board” it put together for the express purpose of recommending such resistance.
But I wish Google would take matters further and simply tell web censors and other bad Internet actors to go pound sand.
Some governments are better than others when it comes to respecting Internet freedom. Unless governments act to stop them, users in any given country can reach sites hosted in any other country. And a company boasting $60 billion annual revenues carries enough weight to make offers of substantial value.
Google should move its headquarters and main server farms to two countries (splitting its servers and running redundant backups across both sets) on an offer like this:
“We’ll double, maybe even triple, your national GDP, bring substantial information infrastructure improvements, follow your labor and environmental regulations, and pay a reasonable tax rate on our revenues. Only one condition. You don’t regulate our content or sign international treaties requiring you to let others regulate our content. Ever.”
Latvia and Jamaica, perhaps. Or Iceland and Paraguay. Two countries, so that if one regime tries to back out on the deal Google can back out as well without missing a beat.
After which, of course, Google could show its middle finger to the European Union Court of Justice and other tyrannical institutions and tell them “if you want to censor, do it yourself.”
Freedom of information is too valuable to let governments screw around with. Time for some tough love.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Right to be forgotten? Fuhgeddaboudit,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Citizen of Laconia [New Hampshire], 02/11/15
- “‘Right to be forgotten?’ Fuhgeddaboudit,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Muscatine, Iowa Journal, 02/11/15
- “Right to be forgotten? Fuhgeddaboudit,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Batesville, Arkansas Daily Guard (paywall), 02/13/15