In 2010, a Croatian pianist and composer by the name of Dejan Lazic received a negative review in the Washington Post. Four years later, the review remains one of the first links to appear when searching his name in Google. Now, Lazic is demanding the Post remove the review under a recent clause passed by the European Union that says individuals have the “right to be forgotten online.”
According to the Post, Lazic wrote in a letter dated October 30th, “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.”
“I so often listen to a concert, and then the next day read about it in the newspapers — read something that is simply too far from the truth,” Lazic continued. “This is something I, as an artist, am seeking and looking for my whole life: the truth.”
Of course, the Post has not abided by Lazic’s request. For one, the EU’s ruling deals with search engine results, and not individual publications, and only within the European Union. Six months after its passing, the ruling remains unclear and “difficult to balance,” as Google itself wrote in a filing to regulators.
It would also set a dangerous precedent regarding the freedom (or lack thereof) afforded to critics, as the Post notes in an editorial responding directly to Lazic.
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…
Never mind that such an attitude torpedoes the very foundation of arts criticism, a pursuit that even Lazic says makes us “better off as a society.” Never mind that it essentially invalidates the primary function of journalism, which is to sift through competing, individual storylines for the one that most closely mirrors a collective reality. Or that it undermines the greatest power of the Web, as a record and a clearinghouse for our vast intellectual output.
Thanks to the Post’s aforementioned editorial, Lazic’s request has since gone viral across the web. Now, when you Google his name, the Post’s four-year-old review sits alongside hundreds of new articles that Lazic would undoubtedly like taken down. He better get writing.