Saying and publishing untrue statements about someone or an organisation has always been immoral and in many cases in many countries, illegal. People now have the right to be “forgotten” by search engines; such as Google and Yahoo!. This means anyone or any organisation doesn’t like what they see in the search result, they can make a request to remove such information. This however is not as simple and straightforward as it may sound; because the search engine has to authenticate “take down” requests to ensure they are speaking with the right person.
As it is evident, this can be an expensive operation for search engines and a time consuming process for those wishing to be “forgotten” because they think it is their right; but how about the right of knowing? If few argue about the right to be forgotten; there’s a strong counter-argument to be remembered; the right to know. Needless to say, even under the new ruling of being forgotten on the search engines, you can still find the content you are looking for; you just need to search in social media and blogger sphere or message your contacts on Whatsapp, Viber, Wechat etc.
So, one may ask, who will be funding the operation and how the costs are going to be justifies in the days where economic growth is yet to be sustainable. This table shows just an estimate of the weekly costs to every search engine in EU alone; if the average hourly wage is assumed £10:
It is however important to mention that each case has to be reviewed by the legal and senior staff within each search engine; and that would possibly bring the weekly costs to something between £800k to £1m for every search engine. So, who would fund this exercise and where they get the money from?
Being forgotten on the search engines is just about certain links being removed from the public eye, not the actual content; because search engines don’t own the contents that appear in the search results when one is searching for specific information. Accordingly, this move is highly likely to be challenged and possibly ruled to be “forgotten”; because it will harm more than any good to the society.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning, the ruling is currently applicable to the search engines but, social media is next; as social media is the biggest search engine and more importantly it is in real time. Owners of search engines are using social media as source of information; they even invested a lot of money in social media and blogging platforms such as Google Plus or G+, Google Hangout, Blogger and Tumblr etc.
Social media, unlike search engines, show the actual content as well as links for further reading; the new ruling either has a flaw or left a loophole. According to Science Daily, over 90% of the world’s data has been produced in the last two years. There are over 500 million tweets posted on Twitter everyday or almost 6,000 tweets every second; this is while Facebook receives over 60 million updates on a daily basis. If we take all updates on all other social media channels, the overall figure will become astronomical; therefore the next ruling might be removing content from social media platforms.
21st century is meant to be all about transparency and a sweet goodbye to all sort of manipulations such as emotional intelligence; which used to appear in form of “justifying” and “proving”. Links may get removed from search engines and social media is highly likely to be the next in the censorship line; but how about news websites, blogs, investigative journalism and citizen journalism?