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Google 'right to be forgotten' requests under fire from UK news sites

updated 01:18 pm EDT, Thu July 3, 2014

Links to public interest stories pulled from Google after EU court ruling

Google's removal of listings from European search results via "right to be forgotten" requests has come under fire, with the search company seemingly not following its own rules. Major publications in the United Kingdom have found links to major news stories on their websites being hidden, including one story about the former head of investment bank Merrill Lynch being forced out of his position following massive losses.

The form for requesting removals states that Google will evaluate requests to see if it includes "outdated information" about the individual, as well as whether or not the link in question is in the public's interest to search for. It gives examples of "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials" as examples of items that should not be removed from view.

The BBC received an e-mail warning about the 2007 blog post about Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal. It is noted that the article in question only mentions Mr O'Neal, though it is unclear who requested the link's removal from Google as the e-mail sent to the BBC only mentions the removed URL. Report author, economics editor Robert Peston, suggests the post is of the public interest. "Most people would argue that it is highly relevant for the track record, good or bad, of a business leader to remain on the public record," said Peston, continuing "especially someone widely seen as having played an important role in the worst financial crisis in living memory."

Google later rectified its search listings, advising to Peston that it had implemented over 50,000 requests for removal, and that the page now loads when a search for "Stan O'Neal" is performed. This now leads Peston to suspect that the removal request relates to someone in the comments below the blog post, rather than the main article.

"Google is confirming the fears of many in the industry that the 'right to be forgotten' will be abused to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest," writes Peston.

Another publication, The Guardian, found that six posts were blocked on Google's European search. Three listings relate to a now-retired Scottish Premier League soccer referee who resigned after lying over a penalty. The other articles relate to a solicitor facing a fraud trial standing for a place on the ruling body of the Law Society, an index of articles by a media commentator, and an item about office workers in France making pictures by sticking Post-it notes to windows.

By Electronista Staff


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