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Oct 31, 2016

Indonesia, Too, Drops Down the Memory Hole

First Belguim, then Italy, now Indonesia. Another country has warped the "right be be forgotten" -- the misguided notion that embarrassing material can be effectively hidden online by removing links from search results -- to justify Orwellian censorship and rewriting of the past.

The Wall Street Journal reports that amendments to Indonesia's electronic information and transactions law enacted last week will allow those acquitted in criminal cases and those found not liable in civil cases to ask a court to order that references to the cases be removed not only from search engine results, but also the web site(s) where the information appears.

While government officials tell the Journal that the provision will be limited to people already exonerated in court, critics say that the new law could serve as a tool of press censorship.

While it is reasonable to sympathize with someone who has been cleared in court but whose name shows up with the accusation in online searching, removing this material -- essentially, rewriting history -- is not the way to address this issue. Once such policies are implemented, and history rewritten and rewritten again and again to protect various sensitivities, it will be impossible to know what was ever actually true.
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. "Reality control," they called it: in Newspeak, "doublethink."
-- George Orwell, 1984, chap. 3.

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