Officials in Kazakhstan and Russia contend a European court ruling sets a precedent that allows them to exercise even greater control over the Internet. Both are already notorious for press censorship and blocking critical websites.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in May 2014 that search engines, including Google, must consider removing from search results information that a party mentioned in those results finds “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.”
The ruling, in effect, grants Internet users the “right to be forgotten” – to demand search engines scrub references to personal details. The ruling does not force websites to remove the information just the search engines’ map to the information, which many argue is just as important.
Soon after the landmark ruling, Internet activists across Europe cautioned it could be manipulated and turned into a potential threat to online freedom of expression. It has already prompted Google to remove as many as 334,000 search results, according to company figures. It also set a precedent for privacy advocates around the globe.
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Jacopo Dettoni is a freelance writer based in Almaty. Kanat Shaku contributed research.