France demands right to censor the global Internet.


Alan McQuinn is a research assistant at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy.

In 2014, Europe's highest court ruled that Europeans have the ability to request that search engines remove links from queries associated with their names if those results are irrelevant, incorrect, or outdated. As a result of this ruling, Google agreed to delist search results from country code level domains--such as for France--to remove offending results for European users, without affecting the rest of its users worldwide. Earlier this month, Google expanded its practice so that it now will delist offending results from all Google search domains, including, for all European users, based on geo-location signals, such as IP addresses. So a user in France would not see delisted URLs even if they visit instead of France is now saying that this is insufficient and Google must take down offending material for all users visiting any of its domains worldwide.

Last week, the French privacy authority, the Commission Nationale de I'informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), fined Google 100,000 [euro] ($ 112,000) for failing to remove links associated with French right-to-be-forgotten requests from its global search index. France is trying to force its domestic policies on the rest of the world by coercing a global company that resides in its borders to implement those policies on all its users. This is nothing short of extortion.

Imagine if the situation was reversed. Suppose that the United States passed a law forbidding search engines from linking to information about alcoholic beverages and subsequently demanded that Google remove all links to websites containing information about champagne or risk fines. How would France feel about such a policy?

No matter how much France would like to wish otherwise, there is no global consensus on the right to be forgotten. Critics around the world have derided this policy because of its negative impact on free speech and its other unintended consequences, such as bringing more notoriety to removed links than had they been left alone. While France has the right to implement the right to be forgotten if it believes it to be the right policy, other sovereign nations that put a higher premium on freedom of expression and transparency, like the United States, should not have to abide by laws...

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