A Danish lawyer goes to Paris to sue Google about a defamation issue. This sounds like a lot of juridical tourism to come. Not being satisfied with the verdict in one country, plaintiffs go to another country to try their luck again. As long as they have enough resources which means, „the right to be forgotten“ is a costly issue, suitable only to accordingly financed people.
But the issue goes deeper, is more worrisome. The “right to be forgotten” stands diametrical contrary to the achievements of the enlightenment. It pulls issues back into the dark of forgetting and becoming forgotten. Generations of historians had had a hard job to bring issues from the dark of being forgotten into the light of being known and becoming investigated.
There is a dangerous trait to manipulate history. Pharaohs withdrew the names of their predecessors from statues and shrines to make them forgotten. Recall the Auschwitz crimes and the enormous attempts in post-war Germany to make them forgotten. Which challenged the other side, to make them scrutinized in the light of science, it became the most investigated issue in history.
The right to be forgotten could evolve to a right to suppress unpleasant information. Political and other participants of all sort can sue to suppress knowledge, facts on the ground of defamation or false description.
People who were wronged by others will feel no real relief by this questionable right, because the issues can come back any time in a different robe. There is no guarantee for forgetting. When the issues revive, maybe one or two generations later, they cannot defend themselves anymore. Who takes then care of their reputation?
What could be an alternative?
1. Clarifying instead of suppressing
Because there will not be such a thing as a united view on a diverse discussed issue, it is more helpful to document all sides and angles to make them accessible. Completing perpetually the informations Instead of suppressing special views, on the ground of a diversity of incompatible juridical systems.
2. The right to be clarified
Everyone should have the right to tell and publish his own story in case of discordance with a description of an issue. Often a story evolves over years, which should be documented and added to the issue, instead of being suppressed. Slanderer are quickly unmasked and become object of scrutiny themselves. In case of defamation those, whose name is clarified, can sleep better as always fearing a second attack on their reputation.
3. The impossibility of regional, national regulation
The demand to delete an information globally, based on a local juridical decision is not feasible. Every other national or even regional judiciary can ignore the verdict and demand a re-installation of the information. The unfolding chaos of contradictory verdicts is conceivable.
4. Regulation by the global civil community
The decision to regulate an information on the global level should be settled by a global institution. An institution installed by the global civil community, not by the states or supra state organizations like the UN, which depend on the benevolence of national governments. The global civil society is maturing only by experiencing her own responsibility. The Internet is the best learning field imaginable.