Erasing on the Internet?

The lead article in The New York Times, “European Court Lets Users Erase Records on Web,” describes a decision with the rare possibility of changing the nature of the Internet, but it remains to be seen how it will be implemented and the degree of public access.

It is up to Google to decide how easy it will be to erase links and whether content will still be available to certain parties. Google must also decide the geographical boundaries to enforcement in the United States where there are first amendment issues.

One of the overriding aspects of Internet culture involves its neutral aspect in that everything about everyone may be published, accurate or not, and it is left to others to decide how important the content is, how it should be evaluated. There are, of course, privacy concerns, but the current solution seems a little draconian in its overarching philosophy and attempt to change things.

As such, I expect it will prove difficult to implement. If users are allowed free access to erase material, how will Google determine whether the subject of the content primarily concerns them? Will it have to include the mention of their name? Can they then erase content that concerns other matters as well?

The practical problems seem huge, and Google will be under a microscope for every item it handles, for every aspect of Internet culture that people try to change. One hopes it will only be under extreme circumstances that the public will be allowed to erase content.