The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a coalition of media and journalism organizations, has written to the independent French data protection agency urging it to rescind its order that Google search delistings required under the European Union's "right to be forgotten" rule include domains not just in France or Europe, but around the world.
In its letter to the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the Reporters Committee noted that the order "requires delisting across all Google extensions worldwide, which would include the U.S. company's .com site and all individual national domains outside of Europe as well. This interpretation of CNIL's authority…is wholly disproportionate because it amounts to unacceptable interference with what people in other nations can post and read on the Internet."
The Reporters Committee letter outlined a number of specific concerns about the CNIL order:
- Requiring delisting beyond the EU "presents a significant limitation on global users' access to information" and "sends a cue to repressive and autocratic regimes around the world to impose their own local restraints on free expression extraterritorially."
- Relying on "mere 'accessibility' of speech on the Internet to defend this action is deeply troubling" and sets an "unworkable and impermissibly broad" standard.
- Allowing "any limitation on notification to publishers" is a concern, as "news organizations are entitled to be told when the law is used to deprive the public of the ability to find truthful information contained in content they have published."
- Balancing "privacy and expressive freedoms" must be better addressed by CNIL, particularly in regard to EU and international law. "In the name of protecting privacy interests, CNIL has taken a stance on extraterritoriality that is so unconditional and unbounded that it jeopardizes the open Internet where millions of people every day enjoy the core rights to communicate ideas, report on facts, and search for information," the letter stated.
The letter recognizes "France's right to weigh the competing interests between promoting personal privacy and data protection and protecting free expression and access to information in a way that reflects its values. But when CNIL seeks to compel Internet users outside of the EU to live with the balance it has struck in this area, it crosses a line and creates an ominous new precedent for Internet censorship that jeopardizes speech and press freedoms worldwide."
The coalition urged CNIL "to rescind the order requiring Google Inc. to carry out delisting across all of its domains worldwide and to continue to look for less intrusive means to implement the right to be forgotten across the European Union."
Joining the Reporters Committee on the letter – which is available on its website in both English and French – were: Advance Publications, Inc.; ALM Media, LLC; American Society of News Editors; AOL Inc. – The Huffington Post; The Associated Press; Association of Alternative Newsmedia; Atlantic Media, Inc.; Bloomberg News; BuzzFeed; Cable News Network, Inc.; Committee to Protect Journalists; Dow Jones & Company, Inc.; First Look Media, Inc.; Forbes Media LLC; Freedom of the Press Foundation; Hearst Corporation; Inter American Press Association; Media Law Resource Center; Media Legal Defence Initiative; National Geographic; National Public Radio, Inc.; The New Yorker; News Corp; Newspaper Association of America; Online News Association; Reuters America LLC; Society of Professional Journalists; Tribune Publishing Company; and The Washington Post.
About the Reporters Committee
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970, at a time when the nation’s news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides legal resources, and support to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Funded by corporate, foundation, and individual contributions, the Reporters Committee serves the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
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