European Right to be Forgotten vs US Freedom of Speech



European "Right to be Forgotten" vs US Freedom of Speech: A Comparative Analysis of Google's Content Removal Policies


There has been a heightened interest in safeguarding personal data and secrecy, particularly concerning search engines such as Google. The EU has chosen to apply the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) while America upholds the freedom of speech. This article will provide a detailed comparison of these two approaches, highlighting their similarities and differences in Google's content removal policies.


The European "Right to be Forgotten"

The Right to be Forgotten (RTBF), legally established by the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of 2018, provides individuals with the ability to ask search engines such as Google to delete connections to their personal information which is considered inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or disproportionate for data management purposes. Individuals in the EU have the right to Remove Google Search Results. This right comes from the European Union's determination to uphold individual security and privacy rights regarding their personal data.

Concept Dealing with Google US versus EU icons

Key aspects of the RTBF include:

a. Case-by-case assessment: Google is obligated to assess each removal request individually, taking into account elements such as societal significance, the timeliness of the information, and the person's public prominence.

b. Striking a balance: Google must take into consideration the individual's right to confidentiality in opposition to the public's right to obtain information. There may be times when the collective good outweighs a person's desires.

c. Limited scope: The RTBF applies only to search engines and does not affect the visibility of an original source, which remains accessible on the publisher's website.

US Law and the Freedom of Speech

Conversely, the US does not institute a corresponding RTBF as its European counterpart; rather, the US values freedom of expression and unrestricted access to information as protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Key aspects of the US approach include:

a. No legal obligation for removal: There is no mandatory requirement under US law for search engines like Google to take down individual content except in scenarios like copyright violation or slanderous material.

b. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA): This federal legislation offers immunity to internet service providers such as Google and websites from responsibility for content posted by outside sources. It gives them the freedom to decide what content to permit without worrying about legal consequences.

c. Public vs. private figures: The United States legal system differentiates between general citizens and public figures, the latter being required to meet a higher standard when seeking damages for libel. This has implications when making requests for the elimination of libelous material, resulting in private individuals having better odds of succeeding in their requests.


Key Differences and Implications

The major disparities between the European and US strategies concerning content elimination can be summed up as follows:

a. Regulatory justification: The GDPR serves as the foundation for the EU's RTBF, whereas the United States has no similar legislation that requires content deletion.

b. Focus on privacy vs. freedom of speech: The European Union places significance on personal privacy, in contrast to the United States where the safeguarding of freedom of speech and information is more valued.

c. Content removal process: In Europe, the RTBF imposes a case-by-case assessment of removal requests, while the US does not require that search engines eliminate personal data based on demands apart from certain legitimate exclusions.

d. Liability protections: United States legislation including Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides safe harbour for technology platforms such as Google, shielding them from liability for content generated by their users. However, the European Union requires search engines to abide by their Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) laws.

The European "Right to be Forgotten" and the US freedom of speech represent two different approaches to balancing privacy and access to information in the digital age. Whereas the EU emphasizes individual security privileges by necessitating search engines such as Google to expunge personal info upon demand, the US upholds freedom of expression and information flow, without expecting a matching duty on search engines. This difference in behavior has consequences for people wishing to control their online reputation and for search engines dealing with the difficulties of deleting content.


Potential Challenges and Future Developments

a. Territorial complications: One of the main obstacles in executing the RTBF is determining the geographical scope of content removal. The European Union has called for the removal of links from global search results, while Google has advocated for a more restricted stance within the EU. This predicament sparks concerns about the extraterritorial execution of laws and the possibility of clashes between national regulatory systems.

b. Progress in Technology: As tech develops, search engines and web portals must adjust their rules for eliminating content to include modern channels of communication like social media accounts and AI-generated material. This could necessitate reconsidering present legal structures and striking a new balance between an individual's privacy and the public's right to obtain data.

c. International harmonization: The contrasting approaches of the EU and the US may cause debate over the necessity of forming uniform global rules concerning data privacy and security. Although reconciling two locations with fundamentally different values could prove to be difficult, some level of unification may decrease legal questions for people conducting business between sovereign states.

d. Public awareness and education: The success of content elimination laws hinges largely on public awareness and understanding of the rights and responsibilities involved. It is essential for both the United States and the European Union to prioritize education and outreach in order to ensure that people understand their privacy rights and have access to methods of keeping their personal data secure.


Impact on Google and Other Search Engines

The contrasting juridical systems in the US and the EU have multiple effects on search engines like Google:

a. Content removal procedures: As a result of the RTBF, search engines such as Google are obligated to set up and keep a system for taking away material for customers in Europe, which is not a necessity in the US. This entails that search engines must assign resources and cultivate expertise solely for the European market.

b. Compliance and legal risks: The RTBF raises the responsibility and potential repercussions for search engines operating in the EU. Penalties for failing to adhere to the law, as well as harm to reputation stemming from high-profile disputes, are risks. In comparison, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in America gives considerable protection from responsibility for search engines and other websites, decreasing the chances of legal conflicts related to material from others.

c. Balancing act: Search engines must carefully navigate the divergent legal regulations while still upholding their pledge of delivering detailed search results. This necessitates a careful equilibrium between meeting the RTBF in Europe and upholding the liberty of speech and data distribution in America.


Broader Implications for Privacy and Access to Information

The disparate tactics taken by the EU compared to the US raise broader questions about personal privacy and the availability of data in the online world.

a. Whose rights should prevail? The disparities between the European and American outlooks emphasize the ongoing debate on whether individual privacy rights should take precedence over public access to information. This poses a challenge for search engines, nations, and other influencers, to consider which needs should be given more significance over the other.

b. The role of private companies: Both the RTBF and the American system call for large roles from exclusive organizations, e.g. Google, to decide on the most suitable compromise between personal privacy and open access to data. This raises questions about the role of private entities in shaping public discourse and the degree to which they should be responsible for their choices.

c. The digital divide: The divergence in regulations may result in a digital schism between jurisdictions, causing individuals living in the EU to have more sway over their digital presence than those residing in the U.S. This separation has ramifications for how people in various regions interact with web-based data and take part in the digital public sphere.


Collaboration and Best Practices

Handshake between business people- security internet with lock shut

Due to the complexity resulting from different legal systems in the European Union and the United States, it is imperative for search engines, governments, and other key participants to collaborate and share best practices. Potential areas for collaboration entail:

a. Transparency reporting: Search engines like Google should publish detailed transparency reports outlining their content removal practices, including the number of requests received, the types of content removed, and the reasons for removal. This data can support responsibility and public trust, as well as encourage a more profound comprehension of the lawful and operational struggles connected with content elimination.

b. Cross-jurisdictional dialogue: Governments, search engines, and other participants should engage in collaborative discussion to uncover areas of agreement and investigate prospects for coordination. This conversation can boost understanding and collaboration between jurisdictions with differing legal frameworks, encouraging a more consistent and foreseeable path to the removal of content and protection of privacy.

c. Development of industry standards: The development of industry standards for content removal can provide a useful framework for search engines and other online platforms, bolstering uniformity across different jurisdictions. These regulations could deal with topics like the standards to analyze requests to remove content, the process to file requests, and the appropriate balance between privacy and publicity to data.

d. Public education and awareness: Collaborative initiatives should also be aimed at increasing general knowledge of privacy laws and content removal processes. This can be accomplished through educational campaigns, public outreach, and the development of user-friendly resources that help individuals navigate the complexities of content removal and privacy protection.


The Future of Privacy and Access to Information

EU flag & US flag as puzzle pieces

The European concept of the Right to be Forgotten and the American policy of Freedom of Speech stand as two distinct means to protect confidentiality and accuracy in the digital age. As technology progresses and new systems are designed for communication, it is necessary to review and adjust such statutes to guarantee they remain pertinent and successful.

Future developments may include:

a. New legal frameworks: As society's values and priorities evolve, new laws may be established to confront emerging privacy and access to information challenges. These systems may integrate components from both European Union and American approaches, in addition to presenting original ideas and standards.

b. Technological advances: Groundbreaking technological developments might be able to form a more effective compromise between individual privacy and communal access to data. For example, advanced algorithms could be developed to better assess content removal requests, or new aids could be designed to assist people in effectively managing their online presence.

c. The role of artificial intelligence: The growing ubiquity of AI in content production and distribution presents new questions concerning privacy and access to information. Legal frameworks will need to address the unique challenges posed by AI-generated material, for example, deepfakes, and mull over how best to equalize individual privacy rights with the public's entitlement to obtain data in this rapidly evolving landscape.


Emerging Trends and Challenges

Concept business idea bulb gear icon as network connection

As we contemplate what lies ahead, several emerging trends and challenges are likely to influence the ongoing debate concerning privacy and data availability in the digital era.

a. The rise of misinformation and disinformation: The proliferation of false and misleading information online presents fresh challenges for keeping a balance between individual privacy and public access to knowledge. Legislation must take into consideration the growing concers relating to inaccurate or false information while safeguarding people's privacy and freedom of expression.

b. Data breaches and cybersecurity: The need for strong cybersecurity measures and data security procedures is paramount due to the constant increase in high-profile data breaches. Governments, search engines, and other players involved must cooperate to develop better safety protocols and shield confidential private data from illegal utilization.

c. Global data protection regulations: In response to growing privacy concerns, various jurisdictions are introducing new data protection laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in America and the GDPR in the European Union. The sheer amount of such laws may necessitate the development of global standards and best practices for privacy protection and content removal, to ensure consistency across different legal frameworks.

d. Ethical considerations: With search engines and other web intermediaries becoming increasingly influential gatekeepers of data, the ethical significance of their choices to eliminate content is magnified. Those involved have to address concerns of equity, visibility, and responsibility when applying rules concerning privacy and data availability.


The Need for a Holistic Approach

To successfully grapple with the complicated mixture of privacy and access to information in the digital world, an all-encompassing strategy is necessary. This process should include:

a. Interdisciplinary collaboration: Gathering professionals from various areas, such as law, technology, ethics, and communications, will help create comprehensive and well-rounded solutions to issues concerning privacy and the removal of content.

b. Public-private partnerships: Collaboration between governments, search engines, and businesses can help build efficient protocols and measures, taking advantage of the strength and assets of each group.

c. Multi-stakeholder dialogue: Incorporating the views of various stakeholders, individuals, non-profit organizations and academics, can guarantee that differing points of view are taken into account and that decisions about policy are guided by a wide range of knowledge and experience.

d. Ongoing evaluation and adaptation: It is necessary to frequently examine and modify legal measures and activities in order to remain in step with rapidly changing technology and social conventions. This process should involve monitoring the effectiveness of existing policies and making necessary adjustments based on new developments and insights.

At the end of the day, the European Right to be Forgotten and the US freedom of speech highlight the complex and multifaceted nature of privacy and access to information in the digital age. These strategies exemplify distinct social values and preferences in finding an equilibrium between individual privacy rights and public access to facts. By working together, search engines, governments, and other stakeholders can help shape a future where individual privacy rights are protected and the public's right to access information is preserved.

About offers only removal services. is not a reputation management service. Our focus is exclusively the removal of harmful search results. We offer no ongoing reputation management services which typically include managing reviews, improving ratings, monitoring media mentions, devising social media strategies, etc. We are specialists in removals. In the past we performed search removals as a white label service for reputation management firms, so we know that removal from the search is what what most clients seek.

TNG/Earthling, Inc. is our parent company and has been providing enterprise level search related consultation since 2001 to a wide variety of clients and joint ventures, including reputation management firms, seo agencies, investment advisors, venture capital firms, law firms, and traditional ecommerce businesses. TNG/E has deep experience with an international clientele that has ranged from local businesses to public companies using diverse strategies ranging from online sales, affiliate marketing, and lead generation, all reliant on organic search traffic delivered via high ranks.

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