The Information Polluter?

Google US Brazil

This is a new one….for as long as I have been watching search this one is news to me. You may recall that Google has fallen afoul of the EU regulators who have declared that people have  right to be forgotten and can request that Google remove content which is harmful under certain rather vague circumstances. It has subsequently been deluged with requests which vary from paedophiles attempting to cover their tracks to people seeking to protect victims of abuse from being identified. This was always going to be a tricky messy problem and it’s already getting worse. Google never agreed to do more than remove the content from the local domain of the complained if that domain is in the EU.  That means that anyone can check on Google.com and still find the content. Indeed Google flags that they have removed something which is more likely to draw attention to the problem content.  In addition sites have popped up which flag content which has been removed and notify news organizations to that effect. All this means that you are just as likely to find renewed notoriety than the obscurity desired.

The EU is already unhappy with the situation and has called Google, Bing and Yahoo in for a good spanking. It’s hard to imagine that they will readily agree to the EU essentially censoring indices which Google/Bing would claim they have no sovereignty over.  The new angle the EU legislators are taking is that by leaving the information in other places to found the search engines are guilty of “data pollution”. Leaving aside the weirdly Kafkaesque concept of information pollution its’ an interesting take. If a US oil giant pollutes an EU coastline they fall under the sovereignty of the country involved and can be fined/regulated accordingly.  Why is information different…if it’s harmful…it’s harmful…clean it up world wide.  As I said this feels like an entirely novel approach and I have no idea if it will have legs enough to impact the situation…but it will be fascinating to watch.

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