Reporters Committee and 28 journalism groups oppose French global delisting order

Ariel B. Glickman | Privacy | Feature | November 8, 2016

As France continues to push the envelope in terms of enforcing a worldwide “right to be forgotten,” free press advocates in the U.S. have stepped in to help Google defend itself from an order to delist content across the global Internet. 

Reflecting concern for newsgathering protections, as well as access to information for readers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a media coalition of 28 news and journalism organizations today urged the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, to strike down an order requiring Google to cleanse search results across all domains worldwide.

That extraterritorial order, issued in March 2016 by the French data protection authority — the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (“CNIL”) — came two years after Europe’s recognition of a “right to be forgotten.”  The CNIL’s interpretation of this ruling permits French citizens to petition for the removal of links to news stories or other website content not just in France and the European Union but around the world.

The coalition’s brief is available in the as-filed French version or in an English translation.

As it grappled with the CNIL over the extent of delisting demands, Google had first agreed to limit search requests made on “Google France” — i.e., the domain google.fr — but that wasn’t sufficient for French regulators.  Neither was the company’s next effort — limiting those searches coming from an Internet address within Europe.  Instead, the CNIL ignored the usual respect countries have for each other’s sovereignty and demanded that delisting “be effective without restriction for all processing, even if it conflicts with foreign rights.”

The CNIL order must be overturned to preserve and protect the principle that one country cannot deny the news media and its readers in another country legal protections that exist under their own laws and those of the international community. 

Earlier in this case, the Reporters Committee and many of the parties intervening now wrote to the CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin objecting to the proposal for global delisting.  (Read that letter in French or English.)

The coalition’s brief was drafted by the Reporters Committee and a team of pro bono lawyers from WilmerHale — David W. Bowker, Patrick J. Carome, Ari Holtzblatt, and Samir Deger-Sen.  The Reporters Committee was joined in the brief by the Abrams Institute, American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, BuzzFeed, Chicago Tribune Company LLC, Dow Jones & Company, Inc., The E.W. Scripps Company, First Look Media Works, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Hearst Corporation, Index on Censorship, International Documentary Association, Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Media Law Resource Center, Media Legal Defence Initiative, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, National Press Photographers Association, National Public Radio, Inc., News Corp, The New York Times Company, News Media Alliance, Online News Association, Reuters America LLC, The Seattle Times Company, Tully Center for Free Speech, and The Washington Post.