I’ve said this before, the Internet can be a mean misogynistic place. Could the Right to be Forgotten help with this?
The Right to be Forgotten is an EU ruling that gives people the means to ask search engine companies to remove data from their searches if it is irrelevant. Its sparked a lot of controversy as well as questions.
The controversy could be characterized as pitting freedom of expression and information against individual privacy rights. Additionally, people have argued that it creates an unfair burden on intermediaries such as Google.
While I am open to these arguments, I find myself thinking about how freedom of expression and misogyny interact. Some of the things that are written about women on the Internet are vile, abusive, full of bile and hatred. Freedom of expression has always had limitations: libel (making false and damaging statements) and obscenity. Freedom of expression on the Internet seems never to have had these limitations, and so obscene libelous statements directed at women exist in perpetuity on the Internet. Perhaps some might argue that its the responsibility of the person they are targetted at to take it up through the courts. But how, when the authors of these remarks are hidden. Which makes me think there is a role for corporations. Or at least a responsibility.
Some advocates for the right to be forgotten have argued that it reflects a social value of forgiveness. We all have the right to make mistakes and then over time have those mistakes disappear into a forgotten history. I agree.
But what I am asking and suggesting here is that the Right to be Forgotten maybe a means to finally have an Internet that is fair to all. For a long time visions of the Internet have championed it as a platform welcoming anyone and everyone. The right to be forgotten may have a role in actually ensuring that it welcomes minorities by proving for once and for all that it will not tolerate discrimination.