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The Right to Forget


There’s an interesting debate in the air regarding the EU ruling on ‘the right to forget’. The EU has just passed legislation that allows individuals to block access to outdated information and stories.

On one side, individuals who want hide information on the internet about the way they have behaved in the past can write to search engine providers, such as Google, to stop them listing pages containing personal information which is more than 30yrs old.

Some journalists and media academics are claiming this is a dangerous form of censorship, undermines free speech and hobbles journalism. They claim it should only be publishers who have the right to decide if information should or should not be made public. This means that the judgement call on what it is legitimate to publish rests with journalists like Piers Morgan and Rebekah Brookes.

On the other side, people with convictions, and others who wish to bury embarrassing stories about their pasts, are asking for the right for them to be forgotten, as criminal records are under French law.

As James Bell writes in the guardian: “There might be a case for saying some stories should vanish from the archives: what about, say, someone who committed a petty crime at 18, who long since reformed and cleaned up their act? If at the age of 30 they’re finding that their search history is still preventing them getting a job, couldn’t they make the case that it’s time for their record to be forgotten?”

But he also makes the point that “The Guardian, like the rest of the media, regularly writes about things people have done which might not be illegal but raise serious political, moral or ethical questions – tax avoidance, for example. These should not be allowed to disappear: to do so is a huge, if indirect, challenge to press freedom. The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression – our journalism can be found only until someone asks for it to be hidden.”

You can see more of the debate here:

If a person is convicted in the UK, then their conviction is a matter of public record, and anyone can research press articles and court records and bring them back to everyone’s attention. But should there not be a time-limit on this, just like the idea of a spent conviction?

We’re very interested to hear what you have to say about this. Please let us know your views – either comment on this article, or send us your thoughts.

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