Opinion: Wasteland

POSTED: 08/6/15 6:53 PM

There is a big wasteland between the right to be forgotten and the option to ignore all kinds of crap that brainless bloggers post on the internet. The targets of these assaults usually have better things to do than chasing bloggers in court – mostly because it won’t solve the problem anyway – but, at least in Europe, initiatives are underway to limit the damages.

Last year a European court determined that citizens have the right to be forgotten. When information on websites is “insufficient, irrelevant or extravagant” people could ask search engine giant Google not to show such a site in its results. This ruling applies to all European versions of Google. Now France has upped the ante and demanded that Google block search results worldwide. Google refuses.

Google’s privacy-Manager Peter Fleischer said in a statement yesterday that France’s request is dangerous, because what is legal in one country, is prohibited in another. “Thailand prohibits criticism of the king. Turkey prohibits criticism of Atatürk and Russia bans homosexual propaganda.”

Fleischer fears that giving in to France’s demands is akin to skating on very thin ice. “In the end the internet will become as free as the least free place in the world. Our position is that no country has the power to control what people in other countries are able to see.”

During the past year, Google received 290,000 forget-me requests. An example is about a Belgian who was sentenced for a crime but who was acquitted on appeal. Googling his name yields no results anymore.

A Dutchman involved in reports about possible fraud with social security who wanted Google to forget him was not that lucky. Google refused his request.

We figure that the free flow of information enriches the world. It also exposes bullshit-artists who constantly get caught with their pants down after publishing utter nonsense. We have ample examples of this in St. Maarten. Do we want to deny these people the right to make a fool of themselves? Absolutely not.

The gossipmongers among us will swallow nonsense for one reason only: they have no life, so they give meaning to their sorry lives by making gossip the main ingredient of their everyday conversations.

There is money to be made in this field but given the choice, we’d rather be in California.

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