The “Right to be Forgotten” issue gives Trump a chance to use “America First” for a good cause: Freedom of speech

Another round has begun in the battle between Google (and other internet companies) and the European Union over the “misbegotten right to be forgotten.” France’s supreme administrative court has just bucked the issue up to Europe’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ). A decision, which will have far-reaching consequences for freedom of speech and the flow of accurate information on the internet, could take up to two years. But well before that, the Trump administration should intervene to make clear that the US will defend America’s leading internet companies — and freedom of speech on the internet.

To review briefly, this all began in 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled that EU citizens had the right to demand that Google and other service providers expunge information that allegedly was out of date, inflammatory, or no longer relevant (though accurate). This forced Google, which accounts for 90 percent of the EU internet search market, to bear the burden in cost and resources of removing links to search results not only from the country from which the request had come, but also from searches conducted in other EU domains. At this time in 2017, the company has removed some 43 percent of individual privacy takedown requests, equivalent to 800,000 links to digital content.

In September 2015, the French national data protection agency (CNIL) went a step further and demanded that offending links be removed from all search results worldwide. Google balked at this extraterritorial demand and subsequently received a fine of $115,000 in March 2016.  Google then appealed the ruling to France’s supreme administrative court, the Council of State, which last week pushed the whole set of questions back up to the European Court of Justice.

Although it complied with the ECJ’s original mandate, Google has been steadfast in challenging the rationale behind the “right to be forgotten” doctrine and now the more outrageous worldwide extraterritorial expansion. It argued from the outset that: “We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access… If the [French court’s] proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the internet would only be as free as the world’s least-free place.”

It is impossible to predict what the ECJ will decide — but there is one ominous precedent illustrative of Europe’s arrogant extraterritorial ambitions. Some years ago, the EU, backed by a tortuous, even ludicrous opinion by the ECJ, attempted to extend its internal carbon tax for airplanes beyond its borders:  Thus, Asian airlines — including a growing number of Chinese flights — would pay the tax not only for miles chalked up over the EU but for the entire flight back and forth from Beijing, Seoul, or Tokyo. The ECJ claimed — preposterously — that the rules were merely an “extension” of EU internal regulations. Others, including the US, protested, but China went further and acted. It threatened quietly to shift future airline orders heavily away from Airbus and toward arch-rival Boeing. The incident culminated in a humiliating retreat for the continent’s top political officials and no further attempt to tax airline emissions beyond EU borders.

It is not to argue here that the US should emulate Beijing with overt direct trade or investment threats. There are, however, two alternate courses of action that should be adopted. First, as I argued to no avail during the Obama administration, the Trump administration should intervene actively in the court appeal — certainly through a public expression of support for Google and possibly with a “friend of the court” brief. Down the road, the EU has expressed a strong desire to revive negotiations for a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to link two of the world’s strongest economies and trading powers. The Trump administration should respond affirmatively to such overtures, with the stipulation that the EU’s continued demand for extraterritorial internet information removal is a deal breaker.

The bottom line is that the issues involved here clearly transcend Google’s business model and competitive position in the EU. As I have written previously, “At stake is the future of free data flows and the accessibility of accurate, public information” through the entire internet.

So how about it Mr. President? Time to finally use “America First!” for a good cause: “Free speech on the internet.” It has a good ring to it.


Σχετικά Άρθρα