Journalism and the Right to be Forgotten

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Journalism and the Right to be Forgotten
Presenter(s) Luisa Fernanda Isaza Ibarra, Vladimir Garay, Nani Jansen Reventlow
Organization(s) Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP)
Project(s) Freedom of expression and press, journalism.
Country(ies) Colombia
Social media @Flip_org (Twitter), @flipcolombia (Instagram), Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa - FLIP (Facebook)
2017 theme Journalism & Media

In Colombia and the Latin American region, RTBF cases are growing exponentially. The RTBF poses a big risk to freedom of press and expression, since, on many occasions, the requests to delete or delist news articles come in cases linked to public interest. Many journalists and the media are being intimidated by lawyers in order to get their news articles removed or delisted.

First, there will be a small presentation about the RTBF and its challenges to freedom of expression and other fundamental rights in the digital era. Then, there will be a conversation with triggering questions delivered by the session presenters in order to raise the debate among the participants.

Format Conversation
Target Groups Journalists, lawyers, civil society, Internet intermediaries.
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Novice
Language English

Session Outputs

What is the right to be forgotten (RTBF)? Claim to ‘hide’ information from the internet, supported on the right to determine someone's own online persona the right to determine your identity. People claim that the information is obsolete or irrelevant, that there has been unlawful processing of personal data, that there is no public interest in the information. There is a tension between these claims and the right to freedom of expression. Usually the request are directed to media outlets or search engines like Google. Diverse interpretation: the RTBF has been interpreted by national courts in a very different way – EU, Netherlands more restrictive and no international consensus. That is why the RTBF is a difficult issue to discuss. It can be understood in different ways: eliminating the information, blocking the access, anonymazing the names, removing it from search results, etc. The Costeja case: Costeja claimed that the information published was hurting his business. The Court of Justice of the EU said that Google is a data processor, therefor Google is responsible for the information published. The CJEU ordered Google to delist the information. The European Court did not look at this in a holistic way. It did not focus on freedom of expression and other rights and responsibilities. As a result of the Costeja case, Google now evaluates info from the EU. Google has developed a specific form for these request. Placing this decision in Google's hands has many issues: Google is not a judge or an expert on Freedom of Expression. Google is not a trained judge to do the balancing of rights. Google issues a transparency report on the RTBF. Since this begun, almost 2 million have been evaluated, 43% granted. In Colombia, FLIP documents many cases of the right to be forgotten. Journalists or the media outlet receive requests from a law firm (reputation management) specific firms -that promise to erase your past. Firms like the Spanish "Eliminalia" or the Colombia "Clean Ups". Usually, the first send an email asking to delete the information under the data protection act, if not will go to the authorities and ask for sanctions. Often, when media outlets receive this get scared they just delete it. Will this affect the way journalists do their work? This request can cause a chilling effect. Manu media outlets do not know their rights or cannot pay for lawyers. It is easier and tempting for them to take down the content. Should this requests be studied as a data protection issue or as a privacy issue? This is a messy issue, there are different approaches to it. It has a lot to do with who is making the request, who is making the decision. What about politicians and public figures? What about ordinary people (not public figures)? What about mistakes they made in the past that haunt them for the rest of their lives? What about the victims of revenge porn? Some think that revenge porn is not a right to be forgotten issue: this is a violation of the law and should be taken down by other legal means. There should be quick and effective ways to take down this information. There is no consensus on where to draw the line, usually it is public interest. However, we do not know now what will be of public interest in the future. In the US there is a registry for sexual offender that has to be published. What if the individuals want to remake their lives? Should this information be removed? There is also an issue with jurisdiction. Should the information be delisted from all Google domains or just in the country? There is no consensus on this either.

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