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With Google as Censor, “Right To Be Forgotten” Loses in IQ2US Debate

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- It must be something in the air, or in America.

  The day after a motion that the US should adopt Europe's “Right To Be Forgotten on the Internet” lost badly in an Intelligence Squared debate, the European Union's mission to the UN is set to present what appears to be a defense of the policy by one of the debaters, Paul Nemitz, Director, Fundamental rights and Union citizenship, European Commission Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers.

  The Intelligence Squared debate highlighted the central role of Google in deciding in the first instance what to remove from Search. The company was presented as being against censorship, and copyright was portrayed as something different, a positive or productive use of censorship.

   But that ignores what Inner City Press has found to be a growing problem: the misuse of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, set to be globalized if the Trans Pacific Partnership is adopted, to block material that is not really subject to copyright from Google's Search.

   Here's an example: in 2012 the UN bureau chief of Reuters Louis Charbonneau filed a “for the record” complaint against Inner City Press with the UN's Media Accreditation unit. The underlying incident involved attempts by the Reuters bureau chief, the then and current president of the UN Correspondents Association Giampaolo Pioli and a few others to expel Inner City Press.

 (This same duo would later urge Inner City Press to withdraw a request under the US Freedom of Information Act to the State Department's Broadcasting Board of Governors about Voice of America's request to the UN to "review" Inner City Press' accreditation, here.)

  Once the “for the record” complaint to the UN was leaked to Inner City Press, it reported about it and put it online. Some time later a Google search resulted in a DMCA notice: an item has been removed from Search, to wit, the Reuters complaint.

  Reuters bureau chief Lou Charbonneau had filed with Google, under oath but apparently without any review by Google, a claim that this “for the record” complaint to the UN was subject to copyright. It is not, but Google granted the requested, engaging in censorship.

 Thankfully, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's project puts such take-down notices online.

 The irony, of course, is that by Reuters' and Charbonneau's logic, many of them claimed "exclusives" involving leaked or spoon-fed documents could be removed from Google's Search. But is Google even-handed, even in censorship?

  Similarly, the Ergogan government in Turkey has claimed that leaked audio is subject to copyright, and has gotten at least some of it removed from the Internet.

   If this is he way Google operations in the US, before or absent any “Right to Be Forgotten,” how would it act if such a law were enacted?

  In the Intelligence Squared debate, arguing effectively against the motion were Andrew McLaughlin, CEO, Digg and Instapaper -- and former Director of Global Public Policy of Google -- and Jonathan Zittrain, Co-Founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

  As moderated by John Donvan, they defeated Eric Posner, Professor of Law, University of Chicago and, yes, Paul Nemitz, Dir. of Fundamental Rights & Citizenship, EU Commission. Is there a need to hear him again at the EU's offices on Third Avenue, with the siren song of censorship?


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