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French Court Trying To Impose Right-To-Be-Forgotten Decision On Google Worldwide
Judicial overreaching sets up conflict of laws confrontation.
Google is facing daily fines of €1,000 in France, under a punitive ruling tied to the Right-to-Be-Forgotten (RTBF), unless it removes links to an article from its index globally, according to The Guardian. Several politicians in Europe have recently suggested that the RTBF should extend to all Google results worldwide, not just country level indexes.
This appears to be the first effort to formally enforce such an idea.
Google removed the disputed link to an allegedly defamatory story in French search results. It has not done so, however, on Google.com. The French court imposed the €1,000 daily fine after Google declined to remove the link globally.
It may be legally permissible to seek removal of RTBF content throughout the EU and its member states. However it’s beyond the French court’s legal authority and jurisdiction to try and impose European RTBF law on countries not within the EU.
The French court’s action represents growing frustration (even exasperation) with the US-based Google. It also reflects an increasingly brazen attitude in challenging the company.
Given that RTBF standards have yet to be coherently established, compliance with the French court’s order would be unwise at best. One could even argue that doing so would create a dangerous global censorship precedent.
To throw what’s at stake into stark relief, complying with the French court’s ruling would be the effective equivalent of eliminating all worldwide references to the Tiananmen Square massacre because that information is illegal in China and the Chinese government requested a worldwide purge.
French courts have jurisdiction over acts and events in France. There may also be reciprocal enforcement agreements within the EU that give their decisions the force of law in other countries.
French and EU courts, however, have no right to regulate the content of search results in North America or Asia or Africa or anywhere else outside of their jurisdiction. And they should not be permitted this authority through voluntary compliance with the ruling.