The following story from Japan, reported by Techcrunch, might seem to be an everyday internet tale of privacy and freedom of speech interacting badly:
The Chiba District Court today issued a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. internet company to remove two anonymous reviews for an undisclosed medical clinic in the country. While they document negative customer experiences at the clinic, neither review violates the policies that Google has in place for user generated content within the Maps service.
Nothing special there, you might think, but there’s a sting in the tail:
The court ruled that Google not only removes the content in Japan, but across the entire globe too.
That’s troubling, because it’s yet another case of a local court asserting its right to affect what happens across the entire internet — the best-known example being the EU’s claim that its privacy regulations have to apply globally if they are to be effective. It’s worrying to see a similar ruling from Japan, albeit only in a preliminary injunction, and one that Google is appealing against, because it risks normalizing that view, with serious consequences for the online world. Far from being a domain subject to no rules, as politicians love to claim, the internet would begin to turn into the one place that has to obey every country’s laws.