A few weeks ago, we discussed the European Union Court of Justice's (ECJ) ruling in favor of the so-called "right to be forgotten." The discussions about the impact of the decision are still on-going but one topic is taking the forefront: free speech.
As Michael Fertik points-out in a recent LinkedIn post, critics are mainly concerned about free speech on the Internet as European individuals can now petition Google to remove certain personal information that is published through third-party links. This concern, however, is not justified after taking a closer look at the decision. If petitioned, Google does not delete the content, it only removes the links to such information, which in return just makes it harder to find.
One major concern for critics is the possibility of criminals or public figures trying to hide the truth about themselves. However, such critics overlook the fact that the ECJ created a broad exception in order to preserve content that is material to the public interest. It is imperative to understand what Google really does: it uses an algorithm to find relevant content based on the user's search terms. Google does not stand for free speech per se, it is just a tool to surface information that might be relevant to the user.
Through the ECJ's ruling, individuals from Europe now have to opportunity to disconnect the algorithm so that certain content, particularly privacy infringing information, can no longer be easily accessed by the whole internet community.