Free To Forget

Friday, May 16, 2014


Europe's highest court recently ruled that EU citizens have the right to be forgotten—by Google's search engines. Bob talks with Emily Bell, Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, about the impact of this decision on freedom of information and internet privacy. 


Emily Bell

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [4]

B K from California

Bob's usually sharp but he dropped the ball on this segment. Calling the court's decision "censorship" is hyperbolic. Bob and his guest assume that there is some sort of neutral way for Google to display information, but there's not. By their definition, every re-jiggering of Google's algorithm is censorship (if we take yesterday's algorithm to be "uncensored"). Both Bob and his guest find the difference between keeping information in archival records and having it available on instant search a silly one, but this is a major theme in new media. On The Media has done segments where it takes the opposite stance: that making information instantly accessible can be dangerous (who owns guns in your neighborhood, who has been convicted of any crime in your neighborhood, etc.). Information use is all about how difficult it is to get, not whether the information ultimately exists or not. Unfettered free speech has never been part of the U.S. program, and it's even less a part of Europe's. We have tons of restrictions on "free speech", some sensible, some less so. You can't argue against a law simply because it restricts speech in some way (you can, it's just not a very good argument) - you actually need to give reasons why the restriction doesn't make sense.

May. 26 2014 10:52 AM

There was a window of time, up to about 2003, when google was truly amazing. So many secrets available about people and places. It got largely washed since then.

May. 21 2014 08:22 PM
reporter from round lake, il

As I used to live on the old continent Americans simply do not understand European history, especially its tracks with authoritarianism and totalitarianism. I think it is very poor of OTM attempt at journalism not to bring those issues forward in understanding this dilemma that many in EU face: openness and free speech vs its repercussions. The most recent examples: on how the "free speech" was used to further the flames of conflict that led to break up of Yugoslavia and its 100k plus dead as result. FYI, another great American company IBM (through its Swiss subsidiary) also used its technology to help Nazis track Jewish population the result of which is widely known. So I think the EU lawmakers have a very good reason not to rely on self-serving and profit-driven arguments by US tech firms for "free speech". History is the best barometers of how these things play out especially now when the ultra nationalist right wing is on the rise throughout many countries of the region.

May. 18 2014 01:27 PM
E Kim Anawrap

We in the US, and the Western Hemisphere in general, have in effect had the ability to be forgotten, or at least to disappear. People who went bankrupt or were involved in some scandal could pull up stakes and move west and start over. Many families of scoundrels even celebrate their ancestors' pluck, gumption, adventurousness. It was far more difficult in Europe to disappear in that way and start over without a past or with a fictional past. Perhaps that is part of the difference in attitude toward a right to be forgotten.

May. 18 2014 11:08 AM

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