The expression "right to be forgotten" has been used to label a broad range of very different legal issues, from privacy claims requesting broadcasters and newspapers to remove news from digital archives, to data protection claims requesting Internet search engines to delist results of queries based on a person's name.
As the Internet facilitates nearly costless and limitless reproduction of copyrighted works, policy makers and courts have struggled to find the right balance between competing goals. These include: 1) mitigating risks and providing legal certainty to Internet intermediaries that transmit or host content; 2) allowing copyright owners to fight piracy and unlawful use of protected works; and 3) safeguarding the interests of internet users in finding, producing, remixing, and transmitting content through the Internet.
A central question shaping the debate on intermediary liability and freedom of expression online concerns which decision-makers are empowered to impose restrictions on the flow of information on the Internet. While international human rights authorities and public interest organizations advocate for a greater role of judicial authorities, pressures have been observed in the direction of both privatized and administrative enforcement. In recent years, administrative agencies have assumed increasing importance as arbiters of online expression.
Extremist and violent content, repeated copyright infringement, and child abuse images are among the threats that have led courts and policymakers to push for intermediaries to proactively monitor and remove online information. Monitoring obligations can arise from explicit statutory requirements (as in the proposed EU Copyright Directive).