Last week’s judgement by the European court of justice allowing anyone to demand that a search engine should remove unwanted information from its index – even if it is accurate, lawful, and publicly available elsewhere – is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.
[…] Among the most troubling implications of the judgement is its impact on political speech and processes. Potential candidates for public office will now have a means of curating their own bespoke search results to ensure that only flattering information remains readily available to the public. The ruling is not limited to those embarrassing photos we wish we could banish from social media but includes news stories and other items of critical importance to an honest accounting of history.
And this is just the thin end of the wedge. Remember the rule of thumb: any law that can be abused will be abused. Never doubt that for one minute. This dreadful decision opens the door to the re-writing of history on an Orwellian scale. I’m only surprised because I didn’t see it coming.
Remember life before Google? Everything you needed to know was “available”, provided you had the time to go the library and they had what you needed, provided you had the skills of a professional researcher and knew where to look. It could take you a week to check a single fact. The information you needed to form a balanced, informed world-view was available; but it wasn’t accessible. Now there’s Google. It’s improved by leaps and bounds and is getting better — more intuitive — all the time. Google provides access to knowledge.
And therein lies the rub. Knowledge empowers and Google empowers us — the people. We can, if we choose, keep up to date with the 99.9% of current events that are not on the front page of the papers or crammed into the first three minutes of the 8 o’clock news.
Now, that is not good news for the governing classes, because we are showing increasing signs of actually using that power. Worse, we use the Internet to organise, forming pressure groups and even — just imagine! — talking to each other. The political coffee shop is reborn and it’s gone global!
Hell-fire and damnation! The plebs are organising and they know all our nasty little secrets. Any time now they’ll be storming the Bastille!