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The US Vs. Europe: Freedom of Expression Vs. Privacy 278

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dang-freedom-hating-europeans dept.
First time accepted submitter GoddersUK (1262110) writes "Rory Cellan-Jones writes about the recent European Court judgement on the right to be forgotten in terms of US/EU cultural differences (and perhaps a bit of bitterness on the EU side at U.S. influence online): 'He tells me... ..."In the past if you were in Germany you were never worried that some encyclopedia website based in the United States was going to name you as a murderer after you got out of jail because that was inconceivable. Today that can happen, so the cultural gap that was always there about the regulation of speech is becoming more visible."... Europeans who have been told that the Internet is basically ungovernable — and if it does have guiding principles then they come from the land of the free — are expressing some satisfaction that court has refused to believe that.' And, certainly, it seems, here in the UK, that even MEPs keen on the principle don't really know how this ruling will work in practice or what the wider consequences will be. Video here."
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The US Vs. Europe: Freedom of Expression Vs. Privacy

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  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:30PM (#47042755)
    The problem is that some nations want to enforce their rules on other nations.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Create a couple of giant hubs in the Atlantic and Pacific, controlled by NOBODY. Let countries that want to hook up to them hook up to them, and then regulate their own internet however they like. But they don't get to govern what other people in other countries say. The very idea is pretty obvious, unworkable, globalist-statist nonsense.
  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:47PM (#47042835)
    There are a large number of things that Europe "gets right".

    Europe doesn't realize that privacy in theory becomes censorship in practice.

    There are a large number of things that the USA "gets right".

    The USA doesn't realize an *unregulated* free market without *PROPER* government supervision means all companies merge into one company and then do really shitty things.

    Which form of stupid to do you prefer: ___________ >>--- fill in your choice.

    (This is my view of what happens, in Europe ultimately there ends up being a Ministry of Censorship that results in websites warning about cookies and the plutocracy having more rights, while in the USA evil corporations end up being immune to government because they contribute $$$ to our broken political system.)
  • by BitterOak (537666) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:55PM (#47042885)

    The original court decision was twofold 1. You have no right to be forgotten by the Newspaper that published the story 2. You have a right to be forgotten by search engines.

    This only applies in the EU and only applies to companies incorporated in the EU.

    There are two problems here. First, why should search engines not enjoy the same free speech rights as newspapers? Second, what defines an Internet service as a "search engine" or a "newspaper"? Suppose I run on online newspaper that has a search function, allowing users to search past articles about any topic? Am I now a search engine? Suppose my newspaper becomes so popular it becomes the de facto place where people go to search for news stories? Do different rules apply then? Or does this ruling simply apply to sites that link to content on other sites rather than it's own original content? Now, do online newspapers lose the ability to link to other source material in their articles? The line between newspapers and search engines may become fuzzy, if it isn't already. Do you see the problem?

  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:12PM (#47042957)

    While I don't particularly think they should have been fired in the first place (businesses should not be concerned with the beliefs of individuals)... these people were fired by their organizations/companies, not the government. It was totally legal and legitimate.

    It's legal, but that doesn't make it right. Technically, the first Amendment only prevents the government from restricting free speech. That restriction should apply to every one.

    If your ability to earn a living can be taken away because of something you said or did, even though what you did is perfectly legal and you broke no laws, and even though you weren't at work when you said or did it, then you have effectively created a society where there is no free speech.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:17PM (#47042997)

    That's the beauty of a free speech free market solution. The government didn't need to come down on him, all it took was shareholders raising some eyebrows and customers withdrawing their business.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Monday May 19, 2014 @09:21PM (#47043011)

    The problem is, what you're saying here is actually "enforcing your rules on other nations". You want the rule to be "I'm free to do whatever I want", which is basically the American ruleset. You are trying to enforce that on Europe, where the rule is "no, actually, that hurts someone else, you can't do it".

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:04PM (#47043159)
    Individual speech is the thing protected by the Constitution. Organized pressure to fire somebody from their job is not free speech, it's mob rule.

    There is a difference. The line might be a bit gray, but it's there.

    So let's say you were an atheist. (I'm not saying you are, it's just hypothetical.) And because of your atheism, you believe that John Smith should not be able to post monuments to Jesus on government property. (Again just hypothetical.)

    Lots of people would consider that to be freedom of religion. You might disagree. So in those circumstances, would you say it was socially acceptable to post a massive internet campaign to insult and disparage John Smith, boycott the company he just happens to work for, and demand that he be fired?

    I am just curious what your answer to that would be.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:20PM (#47043227)

    There is a certain stunning irony in someone on the US side of this particular debate complaining about nations wanting to enforce their own laws in other nations.

    For one thing, that doesn't appear to be what the ruling actually says.

    That aside, someone from the United States is arguing against enforcing local laws abroad? Seriously?!

    I say let's go with your idea. It sounds great. You can have your free speech on your part of the wild west Internet, and we can have our privacy protection in our part of the grown up, normal laws do actually apply here Internet. Also, maybe we can go back to having reasonable IP laws. And perhaps we might even keep the tax revenues from sales by Internet companies in our countries. With a bit of luck, we might even develop more home grown tech industry that way, too.

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:22PM (#47043241)

    First, why should search engines not enjoy the same free speech rights as newspapers?

    You're asking the wrong question. If we can agree that internet search engines are not newspapers, then the burden falls upon search engines to explain why they should receive the special status granted to newspapers.

    What "special status" granted to newspapers? Is this a European thing? In America, everyone has the same free speech rights that newspapers do. Newspapers aren't special.

    TLDR: this ruling simply applies to sites that link to content on other sites rather than it's own original content .

    Now, do online newspapers lose the ability to link to other source material in their articles?

    No, they don't. Because they are not internet search engines.

    Your last two comments contradict each other. You say it's a search engine if it links to offsite content, but then in the next answer you say newspapers are allowed to link to offsite content without being classed as a search engine.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:27PM (#47043265)

    It's not only newspapers that get to keep the info, but any non-search web site apparently. So you can't even divide it based on journalism. What is it about "internet search engine" that is special compared to "online legal database", "hall of records", or "almanac of 1972"? It's like censoring only the card catalog in a library.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:32PM (#47043293)

    If your ability to earn a living can be taken away because of something you said or did, even though what you did is perfectly legal and you broke no laws, and even though you weren't at work when you said or did it, then you have effectively created a society where there is no free speech.

    If your speech cannot have consequences, then your speech means nothing. It literally means nothing. Because it *cannot have consequences*.

    If you can't be fired for things that you say, it realistically means that people can't speak out against the things that you say.

    (Brandon Eich did not lose his ability to earn a living, he just couldn't be the CEO of Mozilla Corp. -- and even deciding that he was fired is an editorial assumption)

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday May 19, 2014 @10:41PM (#47043327) Homepage Journal

    seems to me that basic free speech and free thought is that you cannot command me to forget something, nor command me not to share what I know (ignoring confidentiality agreements which are irrelevant here).

    And here I think the great cultural divide between Europe and USA rears its head. While you cannot be commanded to forget, in Europe, you are expected to forget. The judicial systems of Europe are based on being able to fully rehabilitate, and the former offender's slate is wiped clean.
    In the US, you continue to be punished for past offenses until the day you die. Whether you've been released or not, you don't have a right, legally or culturally to a clean slate.

    Personally, I think this difference is due to religious thinking, where the great majority of Americans believe in a "soul", and that a 60 year old man can and should be held responsible for what a 20 year old did. Add that justice is largely revenge based (an eye for an eye), and there must always be someone to punish, even after the world has moved on.

    The Northern European view is that people change, and that the 60 year old man is not the same person as the 20 year old. People change, and should not be held responsible for views they no longer hold or crimes for which they've served their sentence. There is no "soul", so when the person has changed, the decent thing to do is to forget and not bring it up again. Give people a chance to start over.

    Newspapers are historical documents. But someone in Northern Europe going through old newspapers to dig up old dirt is seen as an arsehole. While not illegal, it's against all cultural decency.. in the US, it would be seen as due diligence.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday May 19, 2014 @11:29PM (#47043523)

    In your atheist analogy, the atheist isn't really harmed except in the opportunity cost of putting something other than monuments to Jesus on the property, and indirectly from the promotion of Christianity as the state religion implicitly marginalizing atheists among others.

    This is patently untrue. The atheist (let's assume he's a militant atheist) feels that religion rots kids mind and is completely horrified by the thought of government support for a particular religion like Christianity. So not only does he see it as personal harm, in his honest opinion it is grossly harmful to society as a whole. (This is, in fact, a situation that is rather close to a devout Christian believing that homosexuality is a crime against God and society. BUT I'm not claiming either side is right.)

    And John Smith needs to be the CEO of, say, a law firm, which is itself not religiously oriented and has Christian, atheist, and other employees, and among whose many legal services is the ability to file disputes based on religious discrimination.

    I don't give a damn whether he is CEO of Citicorp or a mail clerk in a medium-sized business. Business is business, and personal politics are something else. Too much mixing of business with politics is already one of the biggest problems with this country today. We hardly need more of it.

  • by kwbauer (1677400) on Monday May 19, 2014 @11:31PM (#47043531)

    Technically, he would have been fired for having a political belief, which would make it a criminal act in the US.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @12:40AM (#47043835)

    Personally, I think this difference is due to religious thinking, where the great majority of Americans believe in a "soul", and that a 60 year old man can and should be held responsible for what a 20 year old did. Add that justice is largely revenge based (an eye for an eye), and there must always be someone to punish, even after the world has moved on.

    Absolute nonsense! The US used to believe in rehabilitation, which is actually a Christian belief. We used to believe that double jeopardy was unjust too, but now it's common place for people to be tried for the same crime twice, once in criminal court and again in civil court (verdict in either court does not sway the other court). We used to believe in innocence before guilt, and we thought mens rea was required for a crime.

    Like most of Europe and the UK, US courts and laws were based on Christian Law and Philosophy.

    If anything we have lost our sense of justice as the US has become anti-Christian, and yes the US has become very anti Christian.

    For posterity, I am claiming you are wrong about the reasons we have lost our sense of justice. I am not claiming someone's Religion is right or wrong. Look at the lying scum that sits in a huge number of political offices and it's obvious that they are corrupt and immoral. US Culture lacks morality and faith, media has done a great job of removing both of those things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:30AM (#47044295)

    Generally in the Americas, the line of reasoning is: Whatever is not forbidden is allowed. In Europe whatever is permitted is allowed.

    You do realize that this is propaganda taught in American schools to feed patriotism, don't you?

  • by Tom (822) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:53AM (#47044389) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that some nations want to enforce their rules on other nations.

    Like, say, the USA?

    It's funny how americans complain about everyone elses imperialism, and are completely blind to the many ways in which they aggressively export their own values.

    and then regulate their own internet

    There is no such thing as "their own Internet". That's like saying "their own atmosphere". Newsflash: Bits and air molecules don't give a fuck about political borders.

  • Newspapers don't get special consideration, but the court made it clear that purely factual publishing is not covered by this ruling. Such publishing is, in general, protected. Of course it must follow the law, so for example in the UK suspects accused of a crime cannot be named if they are under 18, and in Germany they can't refer to spent criminal convictions. The key point is that articles are written by people, who are responsible for complying with the law, and report factual information.

    Google doesn't publish, it gathers and aggregates data about people. It essentially creates a profile of someone based on publicly available information. It does this automatically, and thus far not in accordance with various EU laws. The court is saying that it must come into compliance, like all publishers must do already.

  • by flyneye (84093) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:58AM (#47044893) Homepage

    In the U.S. , if it is forbidden, a little money to the right politician will get you a permit.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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