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The U.S. Should Adopt the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Online

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Live Transcript
  • Do Privacy Laws Only Help the Rich and Powerful?

    Clip: Andrew McLaughlin argues that the Right to Be Forgotten is a legal way for elite classes to legally suppress embarrassing facts about their past.

  • Can the Internet Forgive and Forget?

    Clip: Andrew McLaughlin and Eric Posner discuss whether the University of Oklahoma students who sang a racist chant should always have that association in web search results of their names.

  • Does 'Right to Be Forgotten' Just Burn the Card Catalog?

    Clip: Debaters argue if the Right to Be Forgotten is a legal way for elite classes to legally suppress embarrassing facts about their past.

Debate Details

In 2014, the European Union’s Court of Justice determined that individuals have a right to be forgotten, “the right—under certain conditions—to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.” It is not absolute, but meant to be balanced against other fundamental rights, like freedom of expression. In a half year following the Court’s decision, Google received over 180,000 removal requests. Of those reviewed and processed, 40.5% were granted. Largely seen as a victory in Europe, in the U.S., the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. Was this ruling a blow to free speech and public information, or a win for privacy and human dignity?

The Debaters

For the motion

Paul Nemitz

Dir. of Fundamental Rights & Citizenship, DG Justice & Consumers, EU Commission

Paul F. Nemitz is the director for fundamental rights and union citizenship in the Directorate General for Justice & Consumers of the European... Read More

Eric Posner

Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Eric Posner is the Kirkland and Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. His current research interests include... Read More

Against the motion

Andrew McLaughlin

CEO, Digg and Instapaper & Fmr. Dir. of Global Public Policy, Google

Andrew McLaughlin is currently CEO of Digg and Instapaper and a partner at betaworks. From 2009-11, he was a member of Obama's senior White House... Read More

Jonathan Zittrain

Professor, Harvard Law & Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, co-founder and faculty director... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The right to be forgotten establishes everyone's right to privacy and human dignity.
  • People should be allowed to have control over their personal data.
  • The internet makes it almost impossible to forget—this right gives people a chance to move beyond the past.
Against The Motion
  • The right to be forgotten restricts freedom of expression and information.
  • Deciding what we can and cannot see online is a form of censorship.
  • This right allows individuals to rewrite history.

Results

  • Live Audience
  • Online Audience
  • Results
  • Breakdown
Pre-Debate
Post-Debate

The Research

The Research

Explaining the ‘Right to Be Forgotten'—the Newest Cultural Shibboleth

Charles Arthur
May 14, 2014

We explain the European court of justice ruling saying that Google will have to delete some information from its index – and why it has divided opinion.

The Right to Be Forgotten

Jeffrey Rosen
February 13, 2012

It’s hard to imagine that the Internet that results will be as free and open as it is now.

Europe: 1, Google: 0: EU Court Ruling a Victory for Privacy

Spiegel Staff
May 20, 2014

A ruling by the European Union's highest court last week ordering Google to provide people with the right to be forgotten has generated fiercely divergent responses in the US and Europe. Germans are celebrating the decision, which buttresses privacy.

FORAGAINSTOverviewEU Commission
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