Ugh. This pisses me off so much, on so many fronts.
I know most of my friends and folks that are likely to read this are pretty tech-literate, and probably already agree with what I’m about to say. But I’m going to say it anyway because otherwise I’m going to explode in poorly contained rage.
To start off with, the Right to be Forgotten is pretty crazy. I mean, I understand the intent, and it generally makes sense. But France has decided that it is too hard to go after content providers and hosts. So instead they are going after the indexer. This is like saying "we, San Franciscans, have a right to use clean energy. So every electricity provider has to buy from some clean power generation, and send us only electrons that were generated that way." This is pointless, backwards, and ineffective. Better to go after the power plants themselves, and make them convert to producing clean energy (okay the metaphor is a tiny stretch, but you get it).
But beyond that, France now wants to apply the Right to be Forgotten worldwide. They have said that, because it is so easy to access google.co.uk from France, it must also censor the same results that are already censored on google.fr. But here’s the thing: the internet can’t know what country you’re in. Sure, it can guess, and it will usually be right. But it can’t know, and it is easy to fool. The bottom line is that it is impossible for Google to censor results across all of its domains, but only when served inside France’s borders. So instead this comes down to a demand to censor all search results everywhere in the world. This is like saying "wait, we have realized that it is impossible to only send San Francisco the subset of electrons which were generated cleanly. So instead you have to generate 100% of your electricity cleanly, even the bits which are going to places not subject to San Francisco law."
There are only two reasonable explanations for this demand, as far as I can tell.
The first is raw incompetence. At face value, the demand reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Internet works. France doesn’t realize that their demands construe a demand for global censorship. Unfortunately, the quotes in the linked article belie this hope.
The second is malice. France is trying to strong-arm Google into paying billions of dollars into the french economy, and they are using trumped-up censorship regulations as the excuse.
It is clear to me that in the next few years (or perhaps a few years ago...) an international governing body like the UN needs to step forward to help regulate this new community-without-borders called the Internet. Not because I think the web needs more regulation, but to protect it from overzealous provincial local-maxima regulation by smaller bodies.
Finally, I think Google should have the last laugh here. "100% of search pages rendered in France will support the Right to be Forgotten. Oh, sorry, we don’t have any data centers in France. Have fun!"