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Censorship by any other name

Posted by Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron is the Director Owner of Advent Communication. With more than 25 years experience he has a deep...
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on Friday, 16 May 2014 in Google

It must be frustrating to search for your own name on Google and find things you would rather not be in the public domain.

This is what happened to Mario Costejo González in Spain, when he discovered a newspaper article about his eviction in 1998 online.

Taking his complaint to the court, he has won the "right to be forgotten" online - and his complaint was not against the newspaper, but rather against Google.

The implications of this for the search giant are enormous - and the true scale of the issue is to be played out over the coming months.

Whilst this decision has been celebrated by some claiming to defend the rights to privacy, others are seeing this as the tip of the iceberg for internet censorship.

Perhaps the most worrying element of this decision is that it is directed at Google.

Let us not forget - in the main, Google does not publish content. It indexes content and allows us to find content quickly and efficiently. We have more information available to us than ever before in history. But Google did not produce this content, it simply assists its dissemination. Interestingly, it is not the original newspaper that is being challenged - after all there is nothing inaccurate about the report. Sr. Costejo González was, ideed, evicted from his property at the time.

No - the decision made is that we should not be able find this information should we choose to look for it.

Perhaps I can ask Google to remove links to a couple of photos where I'm looking a little overweight, or that one where my wife doesn't like the way her hair looks. I'm sure they would be fine with that.

The offline equivalent would be walking into a library and asking for a specific book only to be greeted with a shrug from the librarian and an invitation to "look around as much as you like, but we close in two hours". Dewey decimal system? No thank you!

Publishers publish - Google indexes. We cannot expect to hold Google responsible for the content, Surely? I understand that people are uncomfortable with things posted about them online - and I would be the first to defend the right of someone to have content removed from any website that was offensive or inaccurate. But we should not be able to simply pick and choose whether people should have access to published information about us.

We should certainly not be able to determine what is indexed by search engines - otherwise we open a Pandora's Box that can only lead to censorship by proxy.

As today's teenagers grow into young adults and start looking for "proper jobs" after college - there will be much they will want to eradicate from their online past. Perhaps with this ruling they will be able to do so - and, since we all understand the enthusiasm of youth, we feel for them. But I have warned my own children to be very careful what they post online as the internet is an elephant when it comes to remembering.

Without proper indexing the internet becomes worthless. Think about this. All the information that is stored online, but no way to organise it or effectively access it. Is this what we want? Really?

What do you think? Should individuals be able to have links removed from Google's index? Where should we draw the line?

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