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SPJ joins letter in 'right to be forgotten' internet order


Sept. 15 , 2015

Dana Neuts, SPJ President, 360-920-1737 (PDT), dneuts@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists has joined a letter, authored by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in support of various media groups, to CNIL, the French administrative agency that regulates data privacy.

CNIL issued an order in May requiring Google to enforce the EU’s newly recognized “right to be forgotten” across all Google domain names (not just its European domains such as google.fr and google.uk). Under the order, if a French citizen asks Google to remove a search result pursuant to the right to be forgotten, Google will have to delist that result from all versions of its search engine around the globe.

Although the right to be forgotten and the EU’s delisting requirements do not apply directly to news organizations, journalists have cause to be concerned about the extraterritorial application of laws and privacy regulations that inhibit the free flow of information.

If France prevails in this case, other nations could follow suit and attempt to impose globally their own domestic restraints on internet speech, all in the name of protecting their own citizens. The Reporters Committee letter highlights the implications for worldwide freedom of expression and urges the CNIL to rescind its order. It also stresses that any implementation of the “right to be forgotten” must allow a search engine to notify a news organization when the search engine receives a request to delist one of the news organization’s articles.

“This is troubling, to say the least, and could have serious effects on the web and what other countries have access to on the internet,” said SPJ President Dana Neuts. “The right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, but it is not the law globally. This would allow one country to deem illegal certain content that other countries do not. If this approach were adopted as the standard in Internet regulation, the country with the most rigid regulations would be dictating what the rest of the world has access to on the internet. One country should not have the authority to control what content someone in another country can access.”

The First Amendment guarantees the press and the public a right of access to criminal trials, including pretrial proceedings, and documents submitted in connection with them. In its role as a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.


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