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Social Media And The Right To Be Forgotten


The “Right to be Forgotten” ruling, regarding the removal by search engines of certain information pertaining to an individual or organisation if such information could be deemed inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate or excessive, has had it’s fair share of air time recently. While the ruling focuses on holding search engines accountable for data protection directives, when it comes to Social Media, digital protection rights could have implications for the future of how users manage content.

Available to all EU citizens regardless of nationality, in practice the ruling means that an individual whose personal data appears in search results linking to other web pages when that individual’s name is used as a search term will be able to send a request to Google regarding the removal of those links. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will not always be carried out if they are considered unnecessary.

As a result of the “Right to be Forgotten”, Google reported in July that in less than a year they had received requests to remove over a million links. With the EU court pushing for the ruling to apply on all Google domains for European citizens, critics are arguing that the right has resulted in a string of censorship over issues of public interest. Supporters are focussing on the positives – enhanced data protection and rights to privacy, alongside the fact that the ruling empowers younger people to forget youthful indiscretions and potentially harmful, outdated content. It is these points that are most relevant to Social Media.

The UK government have backed the iRights campaign, an initiative which seeks to push for transparency among the digital world by delivering a universal framework of rights to protect children and young people, an aspect of which is “the right to remove” and “the right to informed and conscious choices” for all under the age of 18 years old.

The debate raises the issue of whether all individuals, regardless of age, should have the right to delete Social Media posts. Most Social Networks already have the ability to remove posts, so crafting our online identity cannot be the problem here. The focus is on being watchful that issues of public record aren’t being brushed aside – which is more relevant to “Right to be Forgotten” in regards to search results. So, should we be entitled to more editing/deleting capabilities on Social Media? Perhaps not. If our current entitlement to deletion capabilities were revoked however, would we find ourselves in a difficult position wishing that we had a right to remove certain content – or should this be part of our considerations when we first enter into marketing on a certain network? Feel free to post your thoughts below.

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