Google case set to examine if EU data rules extend globally

Google is taking its legal fight against an order requiring it to extend "right to be forgotten" rules to its search engines globally to Europe's top court. (AP File Photo)
Updated 10 September 2018
0

Google case set to examine if EU data rules extend globally

LONDON: Google is going to Europe's top court in its legal fight against an order requiring it to extend "right to be forgotten" rules to its search engines globally.
The technology giant is set for a showdown at the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday with France's data privacy regulator over an order to remove search results worldwide upon request.
The dispute pits data privacy concerns against the public's right to know, while also raising thorny questions about how to enforce differing legal jurisdictions when it comes to the borderless internet.
The two sides will be seeking clarification on a 2015 decision by the French regulator requiring Google to remove results for all its search engines on request, and not just on European country sites like google.fr.
Google declined to comment ahead of the hearing. Its general counsel, Kent Walker, said in a blog post in November that complying with the order "would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world."
"These cases represent a serious assault on the public's right to access lawful information," he added.
In an unusual move, the court has allowed a collection of press freedom, free speech and civil rights groups to submit their opinions on the case. These groups agree with Google that forcing internet companies to remove website links threatens access to information and could pave the way for censorship by more authoritarian regimes such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The court's ruling is expected within months. It will be preceded by an opinion from the court's advocate general.
The case stems from a landmark 2014 Court of Justice ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. That decision forced Google to delete links to outdated or embarrassing personal information that popped up in searches of their names.
Authorities are now starting to worry about the risk that internet users can easily turn to proxy servers and virtual private networks to spoof their location, allowing them to dig up the blocked search results.
Google said in its most recent transparency report that it has received requests to delete about 2.74 million web links since the ruling, and has deleted about 44 percent of them.
Not all requests are waved through. In a related case that will also be heard Tuesday, the EU court will be asked to weigh in on a request by four people in France who want their search results to be purged of any information about their political beliefs and criminal records, without taking into account public interest. Google had rejected their request, which was ultimately referred to the ECJ.


Hamas media facing financial meltdown

Updated 20 February 2019
0

Hamas media facing financial meltdown

  • Beirut-based Al-Quds TV faces corruption claims after closure warning
  • The channel has been experiencing a financial crisis for the past three years

GAZA CITY: The announcement by Palestinian television channel Al-Quds TV that it will stop broadcasting by the end of February if it does not receive desperately needed funding highlights the financial crisis facing Hamas’ media institutions.

Imad Ifranji, Al-Quds TV’s director, said on Tuesday that if funds failed to arrive by the end of this month, “it is inevitable that the channel will shut down.” 

The Beirut-based channel’s Gaza office has been unable to cover its costs for the past four months and 50 employees have not received salaries for almost a year.

Al-Quds TV had 350 staff when it was launched in 2008, but now has only 150.

The channel has been experiencing a financial crisis for the past three years, despite cutting costs and reducing staff, Ifranji said.

Hamas began building its media “empire” following its victory in the 2006 elections and the imposition of absolute control over the Gaza Strip in mid-2007.

The fundamentalist organization enjoyed years of financial prosperity thanks to Iranian support, internal fees and taxes, and the use of smuggling tunnels across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Hamas’ financial crisis began with the decline of Iranian support in 2012 and escalated after the Egyptian Army overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi in 2013, leading to growing tension tension between the group and Egypt.

Its extensive media network has also faced claims of corruption and mismanagement by current employees and former staff members.

A few months ago, Al-Quds TV was forced to lay off dozens of employees. The channel’s debts are believed to run into millions of dollars.

The Palestinian Information Center website, the oldest and largest Hamas news site in seven languages, closed its office in the Gaza Strip.

A senior employee of a Hamas media organization in Gaza, who declined to be named, said that websites affiliated with the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, were also facing a financial crisis.

Some, such as the “8 o’clock” website were threatened with closure.

Saber Halima, an employee at Al-Quds TV’s Beirut headquarters, criticized the management of the channel, accusing senior employees of corruption and mismanagement. In a video posted on his Facebook page, Halima described the management’s treatment of employees during the crisis as “despicable and humiliating.”

Al-Aqsa TV, which broadcasts from Gaza, announced on Dec. 19 that it would stop broadcasting because of a lack of funding.

However, Wissam Afifah, the channel’s director general, told Arab News that it would continue to broadcast after paying its debts to the satellite channel Noorsat, estimated at $220,000.

Al-Aqsa TV, which is broadcasting from temporary offices after Israel bombed its main headquarters in Gaza in November, is required to pay a similar amount to the satellite to continue operating.

The channel’s management said it is unlikely the destroyed headquarters will be rebuilt with losses estimated at about $4 million. An employee of Al-Aqsa TV told Arab News that about 200 staff had not received full pay for more than a year.

The employee’s monthly salary was estimated at $800. He had received only $550 in the past four months — $400 two months ago and $150 a few days ago.

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ chief in Gaza, said the organization was considering closing small media institutions and merging other institutions to ease the financial crisis.

Analysts say the continuing Israeli and Palestinian National Authority restrictions on Gaza will only intensify the problems facing Hamas.

Hossam Al-Dajni, an academic close to Hamas, said: “The main reason behind the financial crisis is the developments in the region, such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and US pressure on Iran with regard to its nuclear program.”