Demystifying the Brexit fear campaigns

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament – Pietro Naj-Oleari:

The campaign for ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ has been a long drawn out process, one which has captivated the nation for all the wrong reasons. Seemingly, the new way to win a political campaign is to scare everybody with any given excuse. As a soon to be Politics graduate, I find this a sad and sorry state of affairs.

In this two part series I shall seek to demonstrate what these political campaigns have failed to do, provide fair debate and factual statements.

Admittedly, I am a supporter of the European Union and I will be voting to remain. However, I will not seek to scare you, I simply intend upon feeding you the truths that I believe to hold firm through my own research. As such, I implore you to read on, what I say next may well change your minds, for the right reasons.

In this first part I will cover three main topics, the environment, the NHS, and the economy and sovereignty.

The climate

Even if you dislike some of the EU ‘red tape’ the media perpetually talks about, it is hard to argue with arguments surrounding the environment.

Climate change and the environment more generally will without a shadow of a doubt be the challenge of our generation. It shall not be – as some might have you believe – terrorism, Corbyn becoming prime minister or about any of us finding a job.

If you decide to vote to stay in the EU even if it’s just for the one reason, I would encourage you to make it a climate reason.

The EU climate and energy package was adopted in 2009 to implement the 20-20-20 targets endorsed by EU leaders in 2007 – by 2020 there should be a 20% reduction of Green House Gas emissions compared with 1990, a 20% share of renewables in EU energy consumption, and energy improvement by 20%.

It has also implemented a single EU-wide cap on emission allowances from 2013 onwards, with a linear annual reduction until 2020 and beyond.

To deal with climate change we need transnational organisations. Climate change is not confined to borders, it is worldwide and to fight it, prevent it and save ourselves we must be part of bodies such as the European Union.

The NHS

The next topic for scrutiny is the much talked about NHS issue, perhaps the best and most incredible British institution. Much is being made about staying in the EU costing our NHS because of ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and the money spent on the EU which could be better spent ‘elsewhere’.

For starters, the money we get from being part of the EU to fund research and development is huge. Furthermore, the EU promotes joint action for cancer research and control where member states work together. There is also a large body of evidence suggesting that the NHS is also critically reliant upon the U.K. economy, which as we know would suffer no end if we ‘Brexited’.
Much of the furore surrounding the NHS regards the issue about TTIP, which many people are worried about. The NHS is currently being negotiated out of a deal for this transatlantic trade agreement and would therefore not affect the workings of the NHS.

Equally, the main advocates for leaving the EU, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have all spoken about their desire to privatise the NHS, so when they claim they want to give it more funding or whatever else they may say, you may want to challenge that.

EU migration also makes up around 10% of NHS doctors and 4% of nurses.

The economy and sovereignty 

Both campaigns have also fed the general public questionable figures. Ipsos Mori have carried out a non biased research analysis into the EU, the following were some of the central findings.

48% of the UK’s total international investment comes from the EU and 44% of our total exports are sold to EU countries – china only accounts for 1% of investment and 5% of exports respectively.

23% of those intending to vote leave don’t think that MEP’s are elected. Much of the general public as well as the media also peddle the sovereignty argument regarding Britain not having control over its own laws and regulation.

Instead of persistently looking at the negative portrayal of the EU, why not take a positive stance and view what regulations and laws the EU has brought into place which have benefited us all; trade agreements to reduce tariffs and agree increased trade between EU countries, a cap on the amount of hours an employee can make an employer work for, price caps on mobile roaming charges, ban on tobacco advertising, a minimum of 4 weeks holiday per year and a cap on banker’s bonuses.


Ultimately, in a globalised world of interconnectedness, one which we ourselves pushed and furthered, it makes no sense whatsoever to now become isolationist. Yes, certain aspects of the EU need reform but the wider, transnational issues at hand need to be dealt with collectively. You go and look back at history and tell me how successful and peaceful the Europe and the world more widely has been a) when it has been split up into individual bodies and b) when it has been held together by multi-nation bodies. The proof is pretty clear.

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The great immigration game

European Union 2013 - European Parliament ---------------------------------------- Pietro Naj-Oleari: European Parliament, Information General Directoratem, Web Communication Unit, Picture Editor. Phone: +32479721559/+32.2.28 40 633 E-mail: pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament
—————————————-
Pietro Naj-Oleari:

Here in part two of my Despatch Box mini-series I aim to demystify the scaremongering and ludicrous claims surrounding EU immigration.

It’s as if everyone has developed Tourettes syndrome and immigration is used as an excuse for just about everything. ‘I have no money’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘I don’t have a job’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘There is traffic on the motorway’; ‘its the immigrants’. So let’s get a few things straight on immigration and the current debate in which it is engulfed.

For part one, which explores the EU and the NHS, the environment, the economy and sovereignty, please click here.


First and foremost, a study entitled ‘the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK‘ found that, ‘European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011’.

We can also see that EU migrants claim far less in benefits than UK nationals, ‘In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals’. Similarly, a study carried out by UCL said immigrants ‘were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain’.

Immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2% more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed. Over the same period, British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.

The report also showed that in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21% of the British adult population.

Last but not least, within the NHS 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU and many more from outside the EU. From personal experience of both my mum and dad being treated by the NHS I know just how important this immigration is to keeping it functioning.

Why the immigration fury?

Well, the public and much of the media seems to have conflated and misunderstood the whole idea behind the ‘free movement of people’.

This applies to the 28 EU member states, in other words, you have to be a part of the European Union to gain the free access of movement. Therefore, people living outside those 28 states cannot just freely move to the UK as they please – evidenced by the UK government’s decision to turn away the 3,000 unaccompanied children who were alone in Europe without a home.

This is where the confusion seems to lie and the positioning of blame is very wrong. The current ‘migrant crisis’ we see is not to do with EU migrants putting a ‘drain’ on our services or the ‘Romanians coming over here and taking our jobs’. It has much more to do with the mass devastation that we see spread across the world, particularly the Middle East, by war.

People are fleeing the crisis in search of a better life, not because they want to kill us or take our jobs or ruin our ‘nationality’. The ‘security threat’ of ‘uncontrolled migration’ which ‘increases the threat of terrorism’ is also an absolute Houdini act from the media and Leave campaign.

The inter-service security networks we receive from being part of the EU are second to none, more noteworthy is the fact that recent terrorist attacks in the EU have been carried out by naturalised European citizens and not immigrants, citizens who feel alienated and left out by many policies.


If we are truly interested in reducing immigration figures then we must deal with the crux of the issue, instead of pinning the blame on the ‘undemocratic EU’ and the ‘bureaucracy of Brussels’.

It is far too easy to place the blame elsewhere and play the blame game. However, the issues we currently face in the EU have a huge amount to do with the financial crash of 2008 and ineffective foreign policies in the Middle East.

The financial crisis was perpetuated by an unregulated and irresponsible capitalist world and much of the unrest and displacement in the Middle East has to do with Western meddling in the area.

I am not saying that immigration does not need to be controlled but to leave the EU will solve none of our issues, it will simply mean that we brush them under the carpet and turn a blind eye.

Why does the West turn a blind eye to Eritrea?

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Flickr/Roberto Maldeno refugee camp at Tsorona Eritrea

 

Research by: Phillip Baker, Sam Fletcher, Jonathan Parker, Josh Kneale and Abi Simons.

Eritrea is a country that seldom makes the headlines, indeed it is a state that most Europeans haven’t even heard of, but Eritrea currently has huge implications for the future of Europe. Amidst the migrant crisis that is bringing millions to the shores of the continent, it is often overlooked that a large proportion of the refugees are not fleeing form the more widely known crises in Syria, but from the incredibly oppressive and brutal regime that governs Eritrea – a state from which 5,000 of its citizens flee from each month.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea forms a long strip of coastal land bordering Ethiopia, a country which it was governed by for many decades. A 30 year long war of independence devastated the country until the final victory over Ethiopian forces in 1991. Independence was recognised by the international community in 1993, and the Eritrean struggle for freedom has been hailed as a “major feat of a people’s fight for self-determination.

But in the years since independence no national elections have been held. They are repeatedly postponed, and the country has fallen under the grip of an oppressive regime in which only one political party is allowed to function – the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice – and all independent private media was closed down.

This has meant that the rest of the world is subject to an information blackout about the country, and independent accounts of what is happening there are incredibly hard to come by. What little is known about the country’s internal affairs indicate the existence of what has been described as a ‘totalitarian state’ that carries out constant surveillance of its people, causing the population to live in constant fear.

Human Rights Watch reports that the abuses committed against the Eritrean people include; “forced labor during conscription, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances. Other abuses include torture, degrading treatment in detention, restrictions on freedoms of expression and movement, and repression of religious freedom”.

There is no freedom of movement, and permits are required for people to move out of their communities. Religious persecution is also rife. The government officially recognises four religions; the Eritrean Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the Lutheran church and Sunni Islam. But followers of all other religious beliefs are subject to harassment by the state and can be subject to arbitrary arrest, which is not a pleasant fate especially considering the appalling conditions reported in Eritrean prisons.

But the main cause of the mass exodus of Eritreans is usually held to be its system of conscription. While many European nations still practice conscription, this is only a few years national service. But Eritrean conscription is in reality a form of slavery; most of the population spends their life on national service with no given end date. A scathing UN report on the subject stated that conscripted Eritreans are subject to “the systematic violation of an array of human rights on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world.”

There seems to be little prospect of the situation in Eritrea changing, the President has explicitly denied democracy will be introduced and in 2014 he stated that “[I]f there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or [a] multiparty system in this country … then that person can think of such things in another world.

International criticism of the Eritrean regime has not been especially forthcoming, if western nations think of the country at all they think in terms of the unwanted asylum seekers it brings to their borders. The European response so far has been to try and stem the flow of asylum seekers by preparing a large aid package to develop the country, and not to try and dismantle the repressive government which is causing the exodus. Meanwhile the tragedy that is the plight of the Eritrean people continues unabated.

This post is written in collaboration with The Richardson Institute. 

 

Brexit: the true facts on EU immigration

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Flickr/MPD01605

In the eyes of those who wish to see Britain escape the tyranny of the EU, and its unforgivable crime of enabling international trade and diplomacy for European states, the hot topic seemingly always rides in upon a wave of xenophobia. This is fuelled largely by unfounded claims over immigration, which this article will seek to dismiss.

They’re ‘clamouring at the gates’?

According to the Get Britain Out campaign, membership of the EU opens up British borders to 450million Europeans.

This ridiculous assertion is a simple manipulation of language, designed to give the impression that the entire population of the EU are just waiting at the border to steal our jobs and reap the treasure at the end of the rainbow – our benefits system.

Current figures estimate that the population of the EU is roughly 503 million. This includes infants, the elderly, the sick, and those who actually want to remain in their home country. So claims that Britain will be overrun by 90% of the EU’s Population is both naïve and laughably arrogant. It requires us to make the assumption that the only place in Europe that Europeans want to live (or at least 90% of Europeans) is Britain.

Yes, technically our borders are open to every EU citizen, but leaping to the conclusion that they’re all clamouring at the gate to get to Middleton, or Rochester, or any other areas with strong anti-immigration support defies rational thought, and such claims only serve to scaremonger.

They Took Our Jobs?

In my previous post on the Brexit I mentioned UKIPs claim that over 100,000 UK born citizens lost out to jobs this decade due to an influx of 700,000 Eastern Europeans.

What I’m struggling to understand is if 700,000 came over, why is it that only 1/7 of them ‘stole’ British jobs? What were the other 600,000 doing? And considering a job is something you get given, how did they ‘steal’ anything? This is one of many instances in which figures spouted by Brexit enthusiasts simply don’t add up.

The actual figure for EU-Born Citizens in the UK labour market is approximately 1.9 million working as both employees and self-employed business owners.

Now I’m not just telling you this to prove that UKIP can’t even scaremonger properly (honestly they’re not even good at being bigots), or to point out that this is 1.9 million hard working taxpayers that contribute to the maintenance of the country, instead of just being the ‘swarms’ of benefit leeching sponges that UKIP portray them as.

No, the reason I’m telling you about this 1.9 million is to show how it is directly proportionate to the estimated total number of UK nationals living in other EU countries, which is between 1.8-2.2 million at present.

We are not being overrun. The scales are actually quite balanced, and the majority of those who have gone to live in other EU states are of young-to-mid working age (25-44), so if ‘they’ took our jobs, then we’ve taken just as many from ‘them’.

Not to mention the 30,000 that are claiming benefits from the countries they’ve now moved to. What I would like to make clear here is that if moving to another country for work is to be seen as a crime, then we’re no more innocent than anyone else.

If the argument is that we need to create more jobs, and the solution is to restrict the free movement to other EU states in which such a high number have been able to find work, then how exactly will this help anything? The more that people shout about ‘job theft’ as a key issue in the Brexit campaign the sillier they look.

But what would Norway do?

Another claim frequently cited by Brexit enthusiasts is that we should emulate the models set forth by existing non-EU states, such as Switzerland and Norway, that are able to maintain trade agreements with the EU. However, both of these states have far higher levels of EU immigration in proportion to their population than the UK, and allow free movement across their borders for EU citizens.

In fact, it is written into their trade agreements with the EU that free movement is a necessity in order to retain access to the single market; tied in with technical barriers to trade, public procurement, agriculture, transport, civil aviation, and research through the use of a ‘guillotine clause’.

In essence, all of these agreements are co-dependant and the violation of one, for example through the imposition of immigration quotas, will result in the termination of the other six.

This is the EU simply showing that they will not allow non-member states to pick and choose which benefits they have access to. And in the unlikely event that Britain was given the opportunity to enforce such restrictions upon an exit, we would still need to keep a liberal policy for labour migration in order to remain competitive outside the EU. It wouldn’t be having your cake and eating it so much as it would be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Put simply, whether you like it or not immigration happens and will very probably continue to happen regardless of whether or not we remain in the EU. If it does not, then our wallets will suffer as much as those who we turn away.

The only factor that will change if we leave is that we will reduce our influence in any future matters and the rest of the world may deem us to be much more xenophobic than previously believed.

 

 

Brexit: beneficial or burdensome for the British economy?

Flickr/Giampaolo Squarcina

Amidst a world seemingly plunged into chaos, with tensions escalating daily in the Middle East, and the consequences of the global economic crash of 2008 still yet to be fully realised, one of the biggest issues within Britain remains to be whether or not EU membership is worthwhile.

The purpose of this series of posts will be to inform readers of the facts surrounding the matter, and whilst I will try to be as nonpartisan as possible, my stance on the matter will become increasingly apparent as you read along.

Breaking through the ever so subtle, propagandist, jargon littered, 10 point case set out by the Get Britain Out campaign the cracks are easily visible in their unsubstantiated arguments in favour of the exodus from the EU – or more commonly termed ‘Brexit’.

In this first post I will begin by breaking down some of the jargon and demonstrating why our membership to the EU has numerous benefits.

Freedom to spend UK resources presently through EU membership in the UK to the advantage of our citizens. 

The resources to which this poorly written and unclear point is referring to is the £55m per day, or £20bn per year, that The Get Britain Out campaign claims that EU membership is costing British taxpayers. This figure is based on spurious assertions made by UKIP party leader and professional manweasel Nigel Farage during the LBC Leaders debate.

If you take a look at the UKIP Brexit manifesto you will see that this figure has now increased to £150bn per annum based on factors such as the gross cost of membership, the cost of market regulation, and the influx of ‘700,000 eastern europeans into Britain since 2004, taking away jobs from over 100,000 UK born people’.

Unfortunately for UKIP, their focus on inaccurate gross contributions highlights a fairly transparent flaw in their argument. They simply don’t take into account the fact that we receive almost half of this amount back in rebates under clauses such as the Common Agricultural policy. It also ignores the net figure, as it doesn’t provide the sensationalist headlines that their campaign is dependent on.

In reality Britain is in a relatively privileged position compared to other EU states, as those who joined the EU during its 2004 expansion who are not afforded such rebates.

The actual figure of gross contributions are closer to £14bn per annum, based on figures from 2013, which rebates reduced down to a net contribution of £8.6bn.

Now if you take into account that our government has just announced a budget of £742bn for the year, it becomes apparent that in context, it’s not such a big figure. Especially when you consider that it it buys us the benefits of being in a single market with substantially more buying power than we could hope to have as an isolated state.

Freedom to make stronger trade deals with other nations.

The Open Europe report establishes that the realistic economic impact of a Brexit ranges from a 0.8% permanent loss to GDP by 2030 (where the UK strikes a comprehensive trade deal with the EU but does nothing else), to a 0.6% permanent gain in GDP in 2030 – where it pursues free trade with the rest of the world and deregulation, in addition to an EU FTA.

There is a high likelihood that if Britain were to leave the EU, we would be able to establish some form of preferential trade agreement, similar to that of Norway or Switzerland. However, as neither of these models would suit the needs of Britain, the issue lies in what that agreement will entail.

Now the easy part would be establishing a trade agreement for goods such as cars, chemicals, aerospace, and machinery. In other words, products that other EU states have a surplus of, but that Britain has a deficit in.

In essence, they have the supply, and we have the demand. it’s clear to see why such an agreement would appeal to the other EU states, as it would be profitable for them, and necessary for us.

A more challenging and pressing issue for Britain, would be to establish preferential trade agreements for services, such as the 41.4% of our finance services that are exported abroad. If we are unable to reach an agreement on services we are putting nearly half of one of our most profitable sectors at risk.

The question that has to be raised is whether or not the trade deals we are able to establish post Brexit will be ‘stronger’. In order to achieve the more realistic goal of a 0.6% increase in GDP by 2030, it would be a necessity to open up trade to the rest of the world.

This would be an essential aspect of any economic growth post an EU exit,  however we would be subject to whole new levels of competition from low cost countries such as China and India.

Remaining competitive outside the EU would require the maintenance of a liberal immigration policy, which undermines the emotional motive for most Brexit enthusiasts. Additionally, any amendments to regulations that have been implemented into UK law would have to pass through parliament, and any MP’s that were against exiting the EU.

Considering how difficult the process of a Brexit would be, and the subsequent effort that would be required in order to overcome the challenges preventing and exit from being beneficial to Britain in the long term. Surely it’s more logical to accept the security of the situation that we’re currently in, and use the effort that would be required to make an exit worthwhile, to push for necessary reform within the EU – that would be beneficial to both ourselves and the rest of the EU.

This covers my review of the economic implications of the Brexit. Keep posted for my follow up on the more emotional aspects of the argument, such as the impact of our current immigration policy, and EU influence over UK law.

Ukraine and the Importance of Accuracy

Recently, an article was published on The Despatch Box regarding the wider context of the West vs. Russia series which has unfortunately been renewed for another season on the world stage. Like the writer of this article, the idea of making Russia angry is not one that appeals to me, but the article had another dimension connected to the events unfolding in Ukraine over the last year. It is this element of the article that left me troubled, and writing as I do now.

The most obvious thing of note when reading the article in question is how unashamedly loathsome the writer finds the EU to be. It actually becomes amusing at a point, particularly given how large of an effort it requires to make the EU look like the bad guys of the Ukrainian Revolution, but he finds a way.

After making some amusingly ludicrous comments regarding Russian foreign policy, “Russia is a power that is actively opposed to the principle of interventionism…” we get into one of the more hurtful and serious elements of the article, which I feel needs to be addressed and corrected.

When entering the topic of Ukraine at the beginning of the article, the writer makes clear his belief that In [his] view the EU is the aggressor in the Ukraine affair,” and goes on to accuse the EU of funding the Euromaidan protests. Something which neither makes sense nor has any evidence backing it up.

That’s right, the group that was building barricades out of snow and using wooden shields to try and stop bullets must have been so grateful for all that EU funding they got. You can really see where it went when you watch the footage of Ukrainian security forces gunning down citizens as they attempt to carry their dying comrades down the Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

This is where I got angry, and where I feel some corrections are necessary. The idea that the brave souls who stood up for what they believed in and were killed and wounded for it were an “EU funded mob” overthrowing a democratically elected President is an outright lie, and as such a blatant and horrendous insult to those who died standing against the tyranny of their apparently democratic leader.

If a leader cannot see the need to take action when there are 800,000 of their citizens marching in their nation’s capital demanding action, then I do not see what right they have to call themselves a democratic leader. Let’s not even get into the use of violence during these protests, which alone I would dare say could be a legitimacy destroying act for the Yanukovich government if I even believed that there was no foul play during the election that made that government, which I don’t.

Now, I will concede that the Euromaidan’s movements could themselves be considered undemocratic. The rebels of Donetsk and other critics of the movement have frequently described them as a junta which would be accurate if the Euromaidan protesters had ever even attempted to take control of the Ukrainian government, but they didn’t. Instead, they set up democratic elections and elected a new leader as fairly and democratically as they could manage. If you’re still arguing that this new government is somehow illegitimate, then I’d question whether you’re paying attention.

But of course, the author of this piece is not concerned with what actually caused and sustained the revolution, he is instead at this point in his article waxing poetic on how bloody awful the EU is for democracy, because, as we have seen, he is an expert on the matter of democratic mandates.

My issues with this blog run much deeper than what I’ve stated here, but that is not why I wrote this article, I wrote it to clear up a central lie pertaining to an issue which I am very attached to and hopefully I have been successful.

Ultimately, the thought that I would like us all to go away with is that the events happening around us affect real people, they may seem distant and unreal but for a lot of people they are not. With this in mind I’d like to propose that we do our very best to understand our fellow humans’ actions, be informed on their reasons, and not allow bullshit to propagate for the sake of our partisan ideals.

By Greg Harrison


[Image Credit: Ivan Bandura]

The Right to be Forgotten: Personal Protection or Public Censorship?

Kay Robinson takes a look at the 2012 EU ruling allowing the right to be forgotten online.

Aside from David Cameron’s recent measures to restrict access to pornography, the internet is a largely unregulated space and a bastion of the liberalism of modern technology. Assuming that we’ve all had our fair share of ‘what would I have done without the internet’ moments, whether it’s having used it through your smart phone to navigate a strange city, compiled a poor and last-minute essay or just clarified that yes, Khloe Kardashian is dating again but no, Iggy Azalea’s ass is not real, the internet is an invaluable information source.

With Edward Snowden being a frequent face on the news, freedom of information is a political and social issue that has come to the forefront of media and public attention in the past few years. So we’re aware of how it all works, right? But there are battles less publicised, and measures outside of Cameron’s overt porn plans that have already been introduced. These work in a far more subtle manner, intentionally or otherwise, to regulate modern technology’s biggest and best information source that, which we have come to take for granted. ‘Censorship’ is not a foreign word.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ is just one of these measures. With a self-explanatory title, it has emerged as a response to the widespread availability (read: the internet) of personal information and the ways that this information may continue to stigmatise an individual’s existence long after it is published. The right to be forgotten, therefore, refers to a person’s right to permanently bury personal information from which they wish to disassociate, or deem no longer relevant – bankruptcy, for example.

Differing from the right to privacy, which deals with information not publicly known, the right to be forgotten demands a retraction or disappearance of information from search engines that was, at one time, in the public sphere and is consequently still available – for now.

Not yet upgraded to represent an international human right, the right to be forgotten finds support in the form of the Right to Privacy, but struggles with the interplay of the Right to Freedom of Expression. Nevertheless, the concept was enshrined into EU law in 2012; the European Data Protection Regulation Article 17 detailing the “right to be forgotten and to erasure.”

The Article does not constitute a global framework, meaning that removal of information can only be performed by the specific company from which it is demanded, and will only be unavailable when searched for within EU versions of the search engines (both Google, and Microsoft which owns Bing, have ‘right to be forgotten’ application forms). Companies are not required to comply with requests, but to weigh up the damage to the individual versus public interest in the information concerned, the application procedure is by no means a guarantee to erasure.

But more importantly, the process of the right to be forgotten under European Union law is a privatised procedure in all senses. There is no executive save for the company dealing with the complaint; no system of checks and balances and no appeal procedure. Once information is gone from a search engine, it is usually gone for good within the relevant jurisdiction. A small notification is listed at the bottom of Google search results when something has been removed; nothing more.

Of the information removal requests since 2012 to Google UK and Ireland, 31% relate to fraud or scams, 20% to violent or serious crime arrests and 12% to child pornography arrests. Personally, this is not information I would wish to be prevented from accessing.

Some argue that the enshrinement of the right in EU policy is a step in the right direction, and that it gives individuals deserved control of their own data. However, as The Guardian’s Laurie Penny argues of the UK porn filter, the biggest problem here ‘is not that it accidentally blocks a lot of useful information but that it blocks information at all.’

Index on Censorship are just one of the many organisations who have questioned how the right to be forgotten may affect public access to information and as such interfere with the freedom of expression. The British government are also concerned, particularly with the difficulties of correct implementation, labelling it ‘unreasonable’ and ‘impossible.’

Foreseeing only an increase in this type of censorship, Leila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, forecasts ‘an internet riddled with Orwell’s “memory holes” – cases where inconvenient information simply disappears’. It might not be headline news, but in many ways it is subtlety that makes this sort of censorship all the more alarming.

 

By Kay Robinson


 

[Image Credit: Yanni Koutsomitis]