Let's talk about something else. “The Internet!” In Europe this week, there was some potentially significant news.
News Clip: It is said the Internet never forgets, until now that is. In a huge ruling, the highest court in Europe ruled that Google, and other search operators like it, must delete search result if they are requested. They're calling it, “the right to be forgotten.”
The right to be forgotten, which incidentally is definitely my favorite non-existent Morrissey song, (starts singing) “I have the right to be for-got-ten”. What the ruling amounts to is that if there's something embarrassing on the Internet about you, then EU citizens can now ask Google to take down any links to it, or as CBS attempting to explain it to them older viewers …
CBS News Clip: You're looking at things that are actually material to you that you may not be able to find. It's basically like saying in a library you can have books that people don't like the topics but you gotta take the cards at the card catalog.
Ok what??!! Card catalog!!! Is it possible to use a metaphor more archaic than that one??!! Information is like a penny farthing bicycle!! The data is the spoon break, ISP's are the aft wheel, and users are the deerskin covering on the saddle spring. I will tell you who seems weirdly excited about this potential new right, the newscasters reporting on it.
News Clip: Let's hypothetically say when you were in high school you toilet papered someone's house, you are arrested … but then one night a while drinking in college can haunt you forever online … what 10 million people suddenly approach Google and say, “By the way, you know that story about me running over a squirrel on my bicycle while drunk and naked, I want that removed!”
Okay, that is one way to specific to be something that he just came up with off the top of his head! I guarantee you that there was a photo of that man naked on a bike crushing a squirrel, and if there isn't, then frankly there is now! Yes! Meet your new top Google Image hit, Brian Sullivan!! And live with this for the rest of your life!!! But … but maybe my favorite newscaster fantasy spurred by this ruling came this week from Fox News’ Shepard Smith.
Shepard Smith Reporting Clip: I'm trying to think what I would give to just be forgotten, Shep! I might go rob all the banks on the planet!
Hold on, Shep! Just because you are to erase yourself from the internet, doesn't mean you won't be caught for robbing banks! That’s not how basically anything works! But it is genuinely charming that you think it is. (different voice tone used) “I just like to rob banks, that's all … that’s kinda my thing.” Look, maybe this ruling though addresses a genuine problem. The Internet has an unforgiving memory and it can ruin people's lives, so if all the ruling does is let people take down links to minor indiscretions from their past, it's probably fine.
Live CNN News Clip: A source that has knowledge of these requests says that a man in Europe who was convicted of child pornography was among the first people to request to links … that links to articles about his conviction to be taken down. A politician with some bad behavior in office, even a doctor with a negative review.
Okay, a fail-safe question to ask yourself when drafting a law is, “Might child pornographers like this?” If so, maybe take another pass at it! Luckily, the only thing stopping this ruling from doing real damage is that there is, by its nature, completely ineffective. Because what the EU Court doesn't understand is that the internet is like quicksand. The more aggressively you fight to remove yourself from it, the deeper you going to sink down into it. And the case in point, is the guy who started all this.
News Clip: The case originated in Spain. A man there argued that when a Google search turned up and auction notice that his repossessed home from back in 1998 that somehow that being out there was a violation of his privacy rights.
That Spanish man is Mario Costeja Gonzalez. This is his photo, which was on an article from the New York Times about his crusade to remove links mentioning his debts from 1998. In doing so, he is now world-famous for being that Spanish guy with debts from 1998. The only thing I know about him is the only thing he didn't want me to know. And that is why all of this … all of this is why the right to be forgotten is no longer workable in the Internet age. Nothing you are embarrassed of on the Internet is ever going away. And we all have a horrifying photo from our past the undermines the very person we are now professionally and personally and we can all live in fear of that thing ever surfacing, or we can all hold hands, jump at the same time and save each other, which is why we are launching tonight #mutuallyassuredhumiliation. If we all put our worst photo into the world together, none of us will ever be in a position to judge anyone else ever again and I'm not talking about the cute mildly embarrassing photo like, I don’t know, that one up yourself wearing a, let's say, homemade sweater with your own I'm on it. Hypothetically! Hypothetically! You know, the kind, by the way that is real, that you claim is embarrassing but actually somehow humanizes you a little. No! I am talking about this … toxic, weapons-grade awkwardness!! In fact, I am putting this photo up online right now! We all have to do this together. I'm trusting you all to do the same. Three – Two – One. You have to do this with me, right!!! GO!! (pushes button on laptop) You better fucking have done that as well or I just made a horrible mistake. And I think I may have just made a horrible mistake!!!