Pianist wants bad review taking down under EU "right to be forgotten" rules


Here’s the original review, for no other reason than links.


So, lets say this gentleman convinces Google that this bad review deserves to be forgotten. Does Google also have to block any links to news stories or blog posts about his request to have the review removed? Because I feel like any future stories about this guy are going to bring up the time he tried to get a bad review removed from the internet. Of course, if he had asked Google to remove the links instead of the Washington Post the whole thing would have been secret even if they didn’t remove the links. So, he’s either an idiot or actually believes there’s no such thing as bad publicity.


Cory spends a lot of time talking about how this right to be forgotten is a bad thing. And he quotes lots of instances where it is almost certainly a bad thing. Let’s consider a few where it’s not:

Girl sends nekkid pictures to boyfriend. Boyfriend posts them online. They circulate the internet for years. Every time she walks down the street, she needs to worry that someone has looked at her and is thinking, “I’ve seen you unclothed.”

Person posts malicious lie on blog. A year later, libeled person Googles their name, comes up with blog. The statute of limitations for libel in many locales is a year. But the internet is forever, and now the libeled party can’t do a damned thing about it.

Person commits an actual crime. It gets posted on the web, along with random malicious lies. In the U.S. and other jurisdictions, felons have no reputation to ruin, thus, can’t sue for libel. Fifteen years later, ex-con is still trying to move on with their life, and can’t without assuming an alias of some sort, because Google.

Person posts something stupid as a teenager. It gets archived as part of a community message board. Person grows up. Person can’t get item removed from search results. Anytime they apply for a job, poof, the stupid crap they did as a kid comes up. They don’t get the job because people judge them based on things they did when they were 15.

In the pre-internet world, you could move on with your life after doing something stupid. You could survive rumor and innuendo. In the post-Internet world, that’s no longer a possibility.

So, Cory, what’s your solution? Because I agree the current “right to be forgotten” laws aren’t the best. I’d love to hear an alternative beyond “information should last forever, even if it completely screws up people’s lives.”


Would it be in questionable and perhaps abusive taste for Google to warmly agree that certain ineffable truths of Art escape the mere critic, and then ‘forget’ every review or mention, negative and positive, that this guy has received?


This is why we can’t have nice things.

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Oh no, Barbara Streisand has probably a new name now…

The trouble is that (not unlike UK libel law) there is a distinct risk that the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not merely ‘not the best’; but simultaneously ineffective and draconian.

The most visible instances are the attempts at overt censorship that end up being too blatant or absurd to pass unnoticed; but we know much less about the composition of the successful attempts. Are they in fact the wronged-or-reformed? Has a google delisting ever actually stopped a revenge porn incident from spreading? Is a lot of it little more than whitewash for things that might well still be relevant, at least for those dealing with a person? We don’t really know; and the whole focus on forgetting makes it an inferential attack at best and impossible at worst to know.

I agree that the failure of some parts of the past to age out is unfortunate; but it needs be remembered that doing something can be worse than doing nothing; and that risk is hardly theoretical. We know that access to legal and administrative recourse is highly unequal(and usually concentrated among those least vulnerable to stale internet slander); and we know that many of the most vulnerable have little more than theoretical access to such recourse even in serious cases like needing a decent defense attorney.

Given that asymmetry conducting a series of largely invisible takedowns under vague and subjective criteria is asking for trouble.


I agree that the situations you describe are bad.

It’s just that “right to be forgotten” doesn’t fix them. All the people you’ve just described still have the same problem, even in a “right to be forgotten” world, because anyone who wants to dig up dirt on them – exes, potential employers, etc – just have to search a non-EU version of Google to see the forbidden material. It’s literally one extra click (or, for people who change their default Google version to google.com, which would assuredly happen if this practice continues to grow, zero extra clicks).

This “solution” is all cost, no benefit. It doesn’t help the people it’s supposed to help, and it hurts everyone else by fragmenting the historical record and opening up a censorship process with no checks and balances, no oversight, and no penalty for abuse.

I don’t have a solution to your person whose unwise or stolen images have unjustly leaked. It’s possible that there is no solution.

But doing something stupid and harmful is much worse than doing nothing at all.

I don’t have to have the remedy for your ailment to point out that your remedy is rubbish. I don’t have to know why your head hurts before I can point out that beating it against a wall isn’t making it any better.

At the very least, the EU could have crafted a version of this with penalties for abuse – setting out stringent criteria for what can be “forgotten” and then setting a statutory penalty (maybe 1000 Euros per incident) to penalize people who abuse it.

As it is, any chancer, scumbag, and sleazeball – and the SEO and “reputation management” firms they employ – are incentivized to try to remove everything they don’t like, regardless of whether it has a colorable claim of rising to something that the EU intended. And since the process of serving notices is trivial to automate, and the process of ensuring that they pass the giggle test requires skilled human labor, it is a rock-solid certainty that the major beneficiaries of this will be the sleazebags whose bad deeds should be part of the public record so that their future potential victims can be forewarned.

We know exactly how a notice-and-takedown service works, because the US has had the DMCA since 1998 and the EU has had the EUCD since 2001. Both have been abused beyond measure or belief, and neither have resulted in a reduction of the spread of the materials they were intended to prevent.

What’s more, copyright infringement is easier to spot than “embarrassing trivialities that shouldn’t be in the first page of records” and still, it is impossible to prevent it from slipping through.

It’s either heartbreakingly naive or depravedly indifferent to expect a different outcome here.

There’s a solution syllogism here: “Something must be done/I have done something, something has been done.” It doesn’t help anyone, but it’s a useful club to beat your critics with. It’s pretty unconvincing, though.


Again, we’re in stark agreement that the current solution is bad. But, to take the syllogism and invert it, “Just because the current solution is bad, it doesn’t mean that no solution is better.”

Personally, I’d argue that we apply the same line to private and public interests as they do in a libel case, and change the libel statutes to recognize that we’re not in an age where information becomes stale after a year. Everything seems fresh when it hits the top of the Google ranks.

I don’t think the solution is with the search providers, because as you say, someone can just go elsewhere. The solution is to be able to demand that your information, as a private citizen, be removed after a time.

The problem I see with the approach being taken by the “information should be free and forever” crowd is that they assume the majority of people harmed by the lack of these laws are scumbags and sleazeballs. But who defines that? I know a woman who has committed precisely one bad act in her life – never committed a criminal act before or after. Thanks to one jerk with basic web skills, she’s now effectively unemployable, and this is a decade later. All he had to do was put up the truth, and she can’t work anywhere.

Yes, these takedown laws can benefit legitimately bad actors who want to continue to be bad. But is punishing the guilty more important than protecting the innocent (or letting people pay for their sins and move on with their lives)?

I’m going to take a controversial stance here, and suggest that a modern libel law could make the argument that a webpage either has to put up a notice stating it’s facts are being disputed in court or simply be taken offline (preferably the latter) while the matter is in court. Again – the presumption of innocence on the part of the party who is being spoken of.

"Daddy, what does regret mean?

Well son, the funny thing about regret is,

It’s better to regret something you have done,

Than to regret something you haven’t done.

And by the way, if you see your mom this weekend,

Be sure and tell her, SATAN, SATAN, SATAN!!!"


Searching with DuckDuckGo for “Dejan Lazic piano” leads to his embarrassingly self-authored Wkpedia page, FB, and information for various concerts. You have to search for “Dejan Lazic review” before hilarity ensues.

I don’t think you’re thinking this through very well.

How on earth would this law work? Which court would make US, Canadian, Australian, Russian and other non-EU entities change or censor their webpages? None of these countries – especially the US, where they would be blantantly unconstitutional and illegal and a nonstarter from the first legal challenge – would be amenable to a takedown notice.

Why do I assume that takedown laws primarily benefit scumbags? Because that’s what the libel laws have done. They enabled rich people to suppress negative information about them that it was in the public interest to know – say, that they had peddled vitamins as a cure for AIDS and gotten amazingly rich in so doing – while affording no particular remedy to the weak and powerless.

Regarding “facts disputed in court” – that’s just a nonsequitur. The right to be forgotten material is not facts that are disputed – they’re facts that are unquestionably true, and also not private (they are, for example, the outcome of court cases, regulatory proceedings, or public censures), but considered to be just, you know, ‘not the sort of thing you want other people to discover when they look into you.’

Regarding punishing the guilty: allowing a takedown system with no defined boundaries, no oversight, and no penalties for abuse is punishing the innocent to get at the guilty. The innocent speakers – people who publish material that is not illegal, unsavory, or wrong – are punished to get at the minority of people who are participating in harassment. And what’s worse is that the latter can simply relocate their anonymous materials offshore and continue as before, with nary a blip, while the named, innocent, responsible speakers are at risk from your proposal.


This is a social problem. From my generation onward, just about everyone has dirt that will always be discoverable, so we will either almost all be unemployable, or we’ll find a way to get over our societal hangups and ignore irrelevant crap.


I’m going to forget you said that.

I would think it would be pretty easy to set up a “forgotten links” site that shows only those links appearing in Google.com and not in euroGoogle.

Surely copyright laws apply here?

In many locales, the timer doesn’t start running until the libeled person discovers that it’s happened. That seems like it would be better than a catch-all rule that doesn’t require someone to even make the accusation that it was libel.

So that makes it a good idea to create a completely unrelated law so this group of people can just take care of something that they wouldn’t be able to sue for?

Okay, so, again – what’s the alternative? That we let innocent people suffer at the hands of trolls? That we let people who’ve made mistakes pay for them forever? Isn’t a goal of the justice system to mete out appropriate punishment, and then let people move on with their lives?

I find it fascinating that you’ll argue vociferously for privacy on one hand, but on the other hand, argue just as vociferously against people being allowed to reclaim their privacy.

I find it equally interesting that you operate under the presumption that the majority of people posting crap on the internet are innocent purveyors of truth. Do you have some basis for that stance? My experience in any given day (reading blog posts, Twitter, etc.) would argue otherwise, i.e. Gamergate.

I guess what I’m asking is do you have any solution for the problem of people on the other side of the fence from those you’re currently defending – the people who want to reclaim their privacy.

Re: girl sends pictures – Yep, probably. But the process should be simpler. I should be able to simply say, “You. Take down that thing that relates to me.”

Re: timer – I wasn’t aware of that. Thanks!

Re: felons – I wouldn’t call it completely unrelated, because as with the other cases, it relates to the idea that one should be able to reclaim one’s privacy after a certain period of time.

In regards to the libel laws, even though I wasn’t aware of the timer issue, I’d still argue that they’re incredibly antiquated and extremely onerous on the plaintiff.

Are you given the right to be forgotten that you have exercised your right to be forgotten?