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Google Advisory Council To Discuss ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Ruling

Search Giant To Hold Meetings On Internet Privacy

Google today hosts the first of seven meetings across Europe’s capital cities to discuss a controversial May 2014 ruling that people have a ‘right to be forgotten’ online. The panel, formed by Google itself, will feature the company’s Executive Chairman and Chief Legal Officer, as well as prominent online figures such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Google have unsurprisingly opposed the verdict, which was made by the European Supreme Court.
They will likely claim the ruling is a direct attack on the open webspace they champion so publicly, and they're not alone. It seems they have a point, as according to the BBC the search engine has already received around 90,000 requests to remove content from its servers. The open nature of the internet has always been a notoriously murky topic, and the ruling has done nothing to distil the water.

The bulk of the debate will focus on what content Google must remove and what it can keep. The company claims it wants help in ensuring that all cases are treated with equality and consistency - but some see the meetings as nothing more than a PR stunt. By “handpicking” the members of the council and choosing who is in the audience, Google will “[control] what comes out of the meetings,” according to a quote by CNIL member Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin on Reuters.

Whatever conclusion the ominous-sounding Google Advisory Council does come to, one has to wonder if they’re wasting their time. To me, it seems that any attempt to censor information online is a backfire waiting to happen - European Supreme Court ruling or not. The internet, after all, has previous.

Its first victim was Barbara Streisand. In 2003, Streisand attempted to have a photograph of her home forcibly removed from the internet. The picture? One of a collection of around 12,000 of the Californian coastline, taken to chronicle coastal erosion. Prior to the complaint (a term which puts it mildly, as the singer tried to stick the photographer with a $50m lawsuit), the photograph had been downloaded a grand total of six times. Afterwards? 400 thousand hits in the next month.

The Streisand Effect had been born.

Other victims range from Beyonce Knowles, whose publicist demanded that BuzzFeed remove photographs of the singer looking unattractive, to a primary school in Scotland who tried to shut down a young student’s blog because it reflected poorly on their school dinners. Due to these attempts to censor and bully, content which would have quickly disappeared remains relevant to this day.

The Streisand Effect is a beautiful example of the ruthless internet, and a warning to celebs who think it can be tamed.

Admittedly, the new ruling is designed to give more power to us: the civilians. But it's almost inevitable that the next time someone famous is caught red-handed doing something impossibly immoral, their lawyers will try and cite it as a get out of jail free card.

And when they do, I’ll be hitting Twitter to watch the drama unfold.

Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Google Advisory Council To Discuss ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Ruling Reviewed by Anonymous on Thursday, September 11, 2014 Rating: 5
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