This is now several weeks’ old and I fear that coverage of this issue could fade in the usual 24/7 news cycle, but it deserves to be kept in public view, hopefully continuing to raise a stink. I am talking about a recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding whether a person/institution can demand that an online outfit such as Google can be made to remove material about said person/institution that is damaging, sensitive or highly personal. People are talking about the “right to be forgotten”. Note that the information doesn’t need to be libellous. Even if it is embarrassing but clearly true, a website can be required to remove it. This means that certain organisations and people – and you can think of the sort I mean – have an open opportunity to remove items about themselves that they dislike. It is a monstrous interference with freedom of speech and demonstrates just how badly Europe misses any sort of First Amendment protection of free speech (although as I pointed out the other day, even the US these days has defaulted).
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of anger about this from the media as a whole – there hasn’t been the kind of reaction that attended the Leveson Report, for example. It is easy for some faux civil libertarians to say, perhaps, that the ruling affects nasty, big – usually American – firms such as Google, but that supposition is foolish. Anyone with a website carrying information that someone might object to might face this problem. As for journalists trying to track down information about people and using online channels, this is a very damaging step. It stinks.
There are lots of reasons for objecting to how Europe is currently run and I want out of the EU, although unlike some of those who want to quit, want to do so for pro-freedom reasons, not due to nationalism or terror about immigrants. I have no illusions, of course, about national courts and parliaments in that they can be just as moronic in trying to oppress freedom of speech as a supranational one. We tend to forget that point. But national stupidity can be easier to circumvent than transnational stupidity. Anyone who takes civil liberties and freedom of speech issues seriously ought, in my judgement, to want to see the entire European superstate edifice crumble into dust. It won’t end assaults on freedom, but it will make such assaults less difficult to escape.