Europe has invented a new reason to limit free speech:
At the end of January, Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, announced a sweeping new privacy right: the “right to be forgotten.” The proposed right would require companies like Facebook and Google to remove information that people post about themselves and later regret—even if that information has already been widely distributed. The right is designed to address a real and urgent problem in the digital age: It’s very hard to escape your past on the Internet now that every photo, status update, and tweet lives forever in the digital cloud. But the right to be forgotten takes a dangerously broad approach to solving the problem. In fact, it represents the biggest threat to Internet free speech in our time.
The article is hard to summarize, but basically the new rights takes three forms, listed in order of increasing danger to free speech:
- The right to delete material that you posted yourself.
- The right to demand the deletion of material that you posted yourself and others have subsequently copied elsewhere.
- The right to demand the deletion of material that others have posted about you.