On October 30, pianist Dejan Lazic sent the Washington Post a troubling request to remove a sort-of-bad review from 2010, citing the European Union search engine-censoring ruling that says individuals have the "right to be forgotten."
In a piece published yesterday, the Post says this is the first request for removal they've gotten under the EU ruling. The article in question, written by classical music critic Anne Midgette, was "a tepid review peppered with references to Lazic's achievements," the Post writes, "Not eviscerating. Not a 'slam.' But a criticism, sure." It appears on the first page of Lazic's Google search results.
Lazic explained the motivation behind his request:
"To wish for such an article to be removed from the internet has absolutely nothing to do with censorship or with closing down our access to information," Lazic explained in a follow-up e-mail to The Post. Instead, he argued, it has to do with control of one's personal image — control of, as he puts it, "the truth."
It's a question that goes far beyond law or ethics, frankly — it's also baldly metaphysical, a struggle with the very concept of reality and its determinants. Lazic (and to some extent, the European court) seem to believe that the individual has the power to determine what is true about himself, as mediated by the search engines that process his complaints.
The article points out that not only does Lazic's request have troubling implications for how the ruling might be misused, it was also misdirected. Articles accepted for removal under the ruling are kept from showing up in European search engine results, not removed entirely. Still, the Post points out what the request means:
We ought to live in a world, Lazic argues, where everyone — not only artists and performers but also politicians and public officials — should be able to edit the record according to their personal opinions and tastes. ("Politicians are people just like you and me," he explains.) This is all in pursuit of some higher, objective truth.
[image via Google]