EU Proposes 'Right To Be Forgotten' Online, In Contradiction With Free Speech Concepts

from the which-is-more-important? dept

As a bunch of folks have sent in, there's a proposal making the rounds in the EU for a "right to be forgotten," which would require websites to delete all information about a person at their request. We've actually seen something like this in the past, in Germany, where last year we noted that a convicted German murderer, was using such a law to demand details of his conviction be removed from various websites. It's not difficult to recognize how problematic this concept can be. As Adam Thierer notes, a "right to be forgotten," is a clear restriction on free speech.

Now, some might claim that this is a point where free speech and privacy rights clash, but I'm not sure I actually agree with that. In fact, I'd argue that a "right to be forgotten" is not really a "privacy" right in the first place. A privacy right should only concern information that is actually private. What a "right to be forgotten" does is try to take information that is, by default, public information, and pretend that it's private. That's a very different situation, and one that clearly conflicts with free speech concepts.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 9:12pm

    Another incoming batch of clueless people inadvertently calling the entire world's attention to something they're clumsily trying to cover up, eh?
    These people can't make fools of themselves fast enough; they've got to have legislation added so they can expedite the process. What a farce.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    The internet does not forget. And that is the best reason to be an AC that I can think of.

     

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  3.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 5th, 2010 @ 9:50pm

    won't work

    gov't can selectively ignore this, so this is pretty much unbalanced in concept.

     

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  4.  
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    sinsi (profile), Nov 5th, 2010 @ 9:56pm

    Good luck trying to find all of the websites.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 9:59pm

    The US is the only country that has free speech. No other country does. No other countries want free speech as it violates human rights - such as your privacy example, and allows defamation.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 10:08pm

    Re:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Charter_of_Fundamental_Rights_of_the_European_Union#CHAPTER_II._FREEDO MS

    #11.

    Luckily for you, free speech doesn't appear to violate the human right to be ignorant.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

    Re: Re:

    And there's no freedom of speech in there - freedom of expression is completely different. There's also "protection of personal data" in the charter. Also the EU charter does not apply to the UK. You're the ignorant one not me.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "And there's no freedom of speech in there - freedom of expression is completely different."

    Uhh, no.

    "There's also "protection of personal data" in the charter."

    And...this has what to do with your claim that "no other countries want free speech?" Oh right, nothing.

    "Also the EU charter does not apply to the UK. You're the ignorant one not me."

    Oh look, more non sequitor. It is fun watching you squirm in an attempt to avoid the fact that you posted a comment with no basis in reality.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2010 @ 11:52pm

    All of this is total twat.

     

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  10.  
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    Duke (profile), Nov 6th, 2010 @ 12:40am

    Freedom of Speech, Privacy and the ECHR

    The closest thing to "freedom of speech" that exists in the EU is article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which includes the "right to freedom of expression". This is subtly distinct from freedom of speech (which is a very USian idea). The article goes on to say that the exercise of this right can be restricted for various reasons including "the protection of health or morals" and "the protection of the reputation or rights of others" (among others).

    In terms of privacy, there's no specific right to privacy in the ECHR, but the subtly different "right to respect for ... private and family life, home and correspondence" including in Article 8. Again, this can be waived for the same reasons as above. These two articles often get balanced against each other, for obvious reasons. It also isn't hard to see how this "right to be forgotten" could be covered under (or related to) this right to respect of private life etc., when it wouldn't necessarily be covered by a simple right to privacy.

    From what I have observed the US holds the idea of freedom of speech much higher than it is held elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where other "rights" (including privacy, protection from defamation and prevention of hate-speech) often take precedence. While in some case this can go too far (such as the Twitter Joke Trial), it is part of how European culture seems to operate. As such, while there is an obvious conflict with freedom of speech in this proposal, it may not be quite as noteworthy as it may seem from an American perspective.

    With regard to the ECHR and the UK, (iirc) the UK was the first country to sign the convention (and the first country to be taken to Court by it) and it has been binding on the state since 1953. In 2000 this was strengthened through the Human Rights Act 1998 which made it easier for cases etc. to be considered with regard to the convention.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 4:16am

    Re: Freedom of Speech, Privacy and the ECHR

    Thanks Duke, as I was saying before Freedom of expression is totally different to freedom of speech. And AC seems to think they're the same

     

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  12.  
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    abc gum, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    Is it still defamation when it is true?
    Some countries think so.

     

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  13.  
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    Tamara, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re:

    Defamation when it's true only applies when the person can't prove it's true. The US is the only country in the world that says something that can't be proven isn't defamation under their "free speech" banner. It doesn't apply under "freedom of expression"

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Freedom of Speech, Privacy and the ECHR

    Because in America we don't pander to whiny babies who get their feelings hurt every time someone says something they don't like.

     

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  15.  
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    DanVan (profile), Nov 6th, 2010 @ 11:57am

    I don't have much of a problem with this thought as some stuff put online is disgusting, not true, and can in fact hurt people for jobs and their lives in general

    I am not someone who wants everything and anything to just be allowed

    I have something about me put online that DOES come up with a google search and DID hurt me looking for a job as someone asked me about it. I have done my best getting it deleted but no luck so far. BTW, it is not even remotely true

     

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  16.  
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    abc gum, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And upon whom lies the burden of proof?

     

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  17.  
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    abc gum, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 12:22pm

    Re:

    The same can be said of the several credit bureaus and they do not always delete stuff just because you can prove it is false. There are mechanisms in place for one to post a response. Maybe the intarwebs should do something like that.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

    I wonder if any politicians have proposed a right to be remembered law?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 3:25pm

    The US is also the country with most censorship in the west.
    For example on public television swearing is beeped out.

    What use is freedom of speech if you get sensored anyway?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    I think laws are unnecessary for that.

    Besides this is not how the network works, every node that has that information would need to be wiped clean, are those people willing to go after every single instance of some information?

    That is just ridiculous, as no government in the world or company or person have the man power, financial resources or power to do so.

    Brazil I know have a law like that and it doesn't work, they also have inside the constitution the words "It is forbidden to be anonymous" LoL no I'm not joking. Now look at how those things work there and you will see why is not a good idea, those type of laws are used to curb free speech and threaten political, administrative transparency everywhere.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    Re:

    You mean to use the word censor, not sensor.

     

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  22.  
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    abc gum, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Sensored is what the TSA does

     

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  23. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Millooonare TeeParty Winnner, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 1:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Welcome to Techdirt. Please take a moment to view the following video and tell us how it applies in the context of this very community.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2-gHbSh2AY

    And Mike, can you please tell Stephen Spielberg that lightning has just stuck your brain?

    Thanks.

     

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  24.  
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    Creplach, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 1:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Get a half-way decent Darth mask, you cunt.

     

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  25.  
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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 1:46am

    EU and "Right to Be Forgotten"

    If corporations are people, then I see this as the perfect tool to force off the internet any investigative journalism that reflects poorly on said corporation.

    Viva la Supprecion!

    CBMHB

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 3:21am

    And there you go...

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 3:33am

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 4:34am

    I want to be forgotten. I just want to be free. Just leave me the frak alone.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 4:38am

    Re:

    In other words sucker. We get to call a spade a spade, and we get to do it out loud. We get to call our police assholes. Do you? We get to call you an asshole. Can you publish that?

     

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  30. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Malcolm Tucker, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:25am

    Mike,

    I try to follow you, but often-times you really piss me off. Can you tell me how much fucking shit is on the menu, and what flavor is it?

    Thank you buddy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    abc gum, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    Re: EU and "Right to Be Forgotten"

    Are corps considered people in the EU also ?

     

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  32.  
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    abc gum, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    Heh - wut?

     

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  33.  
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    Bengie, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    Re:

    "The US is the only country that has free speech. No other country does. No other countries want free speech as it violates human rights - such as your privacy example, and allows defamation."

    Defamation is illegal. Might want to get your facts strait.

    Facts an opinions are covered in free speech, but defamation is not.

     

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  34.  
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    Ryan Diederich, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 5:49pm

    i think

    I think that this should become law, but not in the way that it is stated. For example, I should not be able to have sites take down court information about myself. Thats not right.

    But, if I am a user of a certain forum or whatever, I should be able to ask them to remove anything I have posted. It could be a matter of personal security, a matter of privacy, or whatever.

     

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  35.  
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    Thomas Guthrie, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:28pm

    This kinda thing should only apply to minors and people with name suppression. On a case by case basis and VERY rarely.

    A right to be forgotten is inherently stupid and impossible to implement for everyone.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:52pm

    Re: EU and "Right to Be Forgotten"

    In the EU, natural and legal persons (companies) have different rights. This applies to natural ones.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 6:57pm

    Mike,

    Your stance on copyright is mostly spot-on. Yet, you continue to fail to understand that the USA is not the EU. We value free speech as one right amongst many, not as the one that trumps all. And even if you can't enforce it 100% of the time, having such a law is better than not having it...

     

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  38.  
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    abc gum, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 7:30pm

    Re: i think

    "I should be able to ask them to remove anything I have posted."

    What is stopping you from doing that?

     

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  39.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 7th, 2010 @ 11:26pm

    Re:

    Yet, you continue to fail to understand that the USA is not the EU.

    I understand that plenty.

    We value free speech as one right amongst many, not as the one that trumps all

    I understand that as well. I just think it's wrong. Sorry.

    And even if you can't enforce it 100% of the time, having such a law is better than not having it...

    A right to forget? Really?

     

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  40.  
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    Jaws4theRevenge (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 3:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Freedom of Speech, Privacy and the ECHR

    Awesome troll. 9/10

     

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  41.  
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    RCasha (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 3:11am

    Good for them!

    I fully agree with what they're doing (or at least the principle of it - I haven't examined the details).

    With more and more employers, marketers and other people scouring the web to extract personal information about you, this right is an important one. If I decide that I no longer want (say) a facebook page, or myspace, or whatever, I should have every right to delete my account. Same with my Google account, my flickr page and so on.

    Maybe my social network site has had a number of security breaches in recent times, or maybe I just don't want my employer to see the photos of my wild party days. Several such sites make it extremely difficult to remove your own page, since they know that the presence of the page might encourage some to "reactivate" their page some time in the future.

     

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  42.  
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    SomeGuy (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 4:35am

    Re:

    Why can't you explain your situation when asked about whatever this is? Either it's true or false. If it's false, no problem. If it's true, it's either still true or it was only true in the past. If it was only true in the past, depending on what it was and how past, no problem. If it's true now... it's either pertinent or not. If it's not pertinent, no problem. But if it IS pertinent, then you're asking other people to hide your dirty laundry. If it IS pertinent, then your prospective employer SHOULD know about it, right?

     

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  43.  
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    SomeGuy (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 4:38am

    Re: Re: i think

    Legal recourse if the site refuses.

     

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  44.  
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    SomeGuy (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 4:41am

    Re:

    And even if you can't enforce it 100% of the time, having such a law is better than not having it...

    There's evidence that the opposite is true, that having a poorly-enforced law can actually be worse than having no law at all, both because of the effects on the specific issue in question and the side effects on "respect for the law" in general.

    Nevermind unintended consequences, potential abuses, etc, etc.

     

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  45.  
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    SomeGuy (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    Re: Good for them!

    Maybe someone quotes you saying something foolish or embarrassing. Maybe you just changed your mind. Maybe you just don't like what they said in reply. Should you have legal force to have their comment removed?

    Maybe you show up in the background of some's picture doing something foolish/dangerous/embarrassing. Should you have legal force to have their picture taken down?

    If you answered yes to either of those, now envision government or corporate abuses that could stem from this. Even if the "right" only applies to natural persons (as opposed to legal ones, like corporations), corps and governments can pay people to exercize this right on their behalf. Don't like an article, make sure someone quoted by it changes their mind and wants their comments forgotten. Don't like a pictures from protest? Make sure someone in the background decides they don't want to be associated with the event.

     

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  46.  
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    Idobek (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 5:52am

    Re:

    As Mike says "we" are wrong, absolutely and entirely. Freedom of expression should trump everything; some of "us" still understand this.

     

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  47.  
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    jc (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Good for them!

    You can't ask people who are in favor of this law to understand it's consequences.

    After all, the primary purpose of this law is to allow those same people to avoid consequences they didn't think about in the past.

     

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  48.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    No other countries want free speech as it violates human rights

    This is one of the most basic natural human rights...the ability to open your mouth and make whatever noise you want. Now, there may be consequences for what you say but nobody can stop you from saying it in the first place...

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    (perhaps a right to be remembered for attempts to pass dumb laws?)

     

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  50.  
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    SomeGuy (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Good for them!

    To be fair, I don't think that's entirely fair. Some people have said or done things in the past that they'd like to distance themselves from, and it's not always about getting drunk at a party. That having been said, though I can understand the sentiment, I'm against government-mandated amnesia, and I think some things need to be remembered no matter how many people wish it could be forgotten. The burden of the past is, I think, an acceptible cost to avoid the side effects of such a law.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re: i think

    "But, if I am a user of a certain forum or whatever, I should be able to ask them to remove anything I have posted. It could be a matter of personal security, a matter of privacy, or whatever."

    Why?

     

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  52.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 8th, 2010 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: i think

    Why should they be compelled to remove content you decided to post?

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2011 @ 3:27am

    This will get legs if not actioned asa it is already an established part of French law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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