Sep 27, 2016

Italy Limits History to Two Years

I recently wrote about the highest court in Belgium holding that the European "right to be forgotten" required a newspaper to remove a 22-year-old article from its archive, down George Orwell's memory hole. Now Italy's highest court has limited the retention time for articles subject to "right to be forgotten" complaints to a scant two years.

Thus the "right to be forgotten" is becoming a way of "forgetting" the past, by forcing the removal of evidence of it.

The Guardian recently reported on the court decision (in Italian), which was issued on June 24. (L'Espresso earlier reported on the decision.) It came in a case that stemmed from a "right to be forgotten" complaint by a restaurant owner involved in a criminal case. (The name of the restaurant and the nature of the criminal case are redacted from the decision because of their alleged "sensitivity.")

The criminal case was reported by the news site Primadanoi on March 26, 2006, and the article appeared in Google searches for the restaurant.

Under the "right to be forgotten" precedent, the restaurant owner could request removal of links to the article on search engines. But the owner instead requested that the news site remove the story, filing suit two years after the article was first published. After initially refusing, the site relented and removed the article six months after the suit was filed.

But the trial court held that Primadanoi should have removed the article immediately after the request was received, and fined the site €10,000 ($11,205), split between the restaurant and the owner, for the six months it remained online after the suit was filed. The intermediate appeals court affirmed.

Primadanoi then appealed to the Supreme Court of Cassation (Italian site), Italy's highest court. In its June 24 ruling, that court affirmed the fine, holding that after two years the news article had expired, “just like milk, yogurt or a pint of ice-cream.” The court elaborated:

The time [that] passed between the date [the article] was first published and the date when its removal was requested sufficed to satisfy the public interest as far as its right to be informed was concerned, and therefore, at least from the date when the formal notice was received, that data could no longer be disclosed. (translations from the Guardian)
Besides the misapplication of the "right to be forgotten" to the original sources of the offending article rather than the search engine links to the articles, the Belgian and Italian courts have extended an already problematic concept to a more dire level of rewriting history. And by placing a two-year limit on the availability of such articles, the Italian court has ensured that history now has a ridiculously short two-year shelf life before it is "disappeared."

Big Brother is pleased.


Orumus said...

Watching the slow self destruction of liberal societies is both fascinating and infuriating.

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