Google and the European Court of the Absurd
The recent ruling by the European Court which requires Google to remove links to (technically, to de-index) content related to privacy claims is more than baffling, it is bloody stupid. The ruling requires the search megalith to unpick paths to material which is out of date and refers to individuals who have sought legal redress.
The Court of Just Bloody Stupid
This is not a defence of Google. The monopoly search provider has enormous market power, and a close eye should be kept on how it wields it. However, the tax-averse internet giant is an indexer of the web, not a builder of its content (in this case, at least). The ECJ ruling typifies the ignorance of technology that pervades politics and lawmaking.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.
Now Google is coming under fire for being stroppily effective in dissecting its search results to meet the ruling. They are reported to be applying the ruling geographically so that the excised results are readily available in other countries, making a mockery of the whole exercise. Not quite as Jefferson intended when he said “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so” but close.
Searching for Sanity
If articles defame, mislead or otherwise offend, it makes perfect sense to have them taken down and, where malice is proved, their originators or promoters punished. If simply out of date or beyond validity, such as in the case of the rehabilitation of offenders, then again it should be removed. The point is that it is the material that should be removed. In doing so, links to it will expire and effective search indexes will see it removed automatically. Artificially censoring one index to the internet – admittedly, the largest one – does not eliminate links to the same article from any other. Even if the ECJ ruling extends to Bing, Yahoo and beyond, it is short-sighted to assume this protects individuals from defamation or decaying articles more effectively than removing the offending text itself.