Ever since 2014, individuals have had the right to demand that search engine providers remove information on them if it can shown that such information is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive”. The so-called “right to be forgotten” was controversial at the time – not least because it is an inevitable clash between the freedom of speech and an individuals rights. However, following a £100,000 fine levied against Google by the French data regulator, the extent of this right was challenged on a geographical basis and whether the EU could effectively force search engine providers to adhere to an individuals rights to be forgotten on a global basis.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the EU court backed Google and have made it clear that the right only exists in the member states. Whilst the court went on to indicate that search engine providers should still take steps to discourage de-listed links from being accessed outside the EU, the overarching decision means that attempts to extend the EU’s restrictions on freedom of speech are limited to the EU bloc itself.
The decision is sensible (and practical as it is hard to see on what basis the EU could realistically restrict what individuals in countries outside its jurisdiction can/cannot view on the internet) but highlights the inherent problem of having a global platform such as the internet being regulated at local level where politics, law, religion, and general sentiment can influence what is considered right or wrong.