Friday, April 8, 2016

Internet Censorship vs. Right To Be Fair & Accurate

You may have heard that France has a law called “the right to be forgotten,” where Google and major search engines are required to scrub certain information on certain people.  Individuals can request that links don’t appear in connection to things such as past criminal convictions, embarrassing photos, or malicious posts about them.  For instance, a teen who commits a crime and has his record expunged by the courts could request that any link to this story not appear once he gets the arrest record expunged.  Or if an ex-spouse publishes nude selfies of the woman he stalks, links to those images will not come up. Questions of censorship and the right to know have been played out in France, but now the issue may extend to America.

A French commission is now saying it’s not enough for Google to wipe the slate clean in France.  It may be required to do so around the globe for any French citizen.  After all, someone doing a background check on a French citizen could call upon a computer in the U.S. to see what really needs to be known about that person.

Should the rules of one nation be used to control another country?

Why should Americans be forced to live under the regulations of France?  What if France said links to certain sites, viewpoints, books, or media need to also be banned – would we have to do the same?

China has its censorship claws out there.  So do some other countries.  The last thing we should do is be like them.  We should, however, make Google put a warning label next to all search results that says: "Warning:  Search results may not accurately reflect all information that has been published online."

There should be a “right to explain your side” law, where any link to anything about a person also provides a brief response from the person who’s the subject of the content.  For instance, I should have the right to say a story is inaccurate, or that a tweet is a lie, or that an image posted was photoshopped, or that content was hacked or that there’s a legal proceeding attached to the content.

We also need “right to accuracy” laws.  Content gets posted all of the time that passes opinion for fact or that shares an opinion based on incorrect facts. Whether by accident or intent, too much content is circulating online that simply is not true, out of context, misleading, or missing key pieces of information.  We need things to be posted that are fact-checked and clearly labeled as “news” vs. “opinion,” or “fact-confirmed” vs. “unsubstantiated.”

People should not have to be burdened by false information.  We rely more and more on the Internet for everything, from finding jobs and dates to getting health or financial advice.  Before we just take information off the Net because another country demands it, let’s figure out how to best label, counter, and review the content that is out there.  The more we understand about the materials circulating online, the less we’ll have to worry about censoring searches and manipulating who sees what.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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