28th Oct 2016

Google removes press links after EU ruling

  • Google has removed over 70,000 "right to be forgotten" links (Photo: Carlos Luna)

Google has removed over 70,000 Internet links, amid accusations it is trying to promote critical reactions to a EU court ruling by targeting major media outlets.

The US firm on Thursday (3 July) said it was getting around 1,000 "right to be forgotten" requests a day.

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The EU court in Luxembourg in May ruled the search giant should delete links on searches done on the basis of a person’s name if found “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.”

The content itself is not removed or deleted.

Earlier this week British media outlets the Guardian, The Daily Mail, the BBC and others received notices links that some of their articles would be swiped off.

The Guardian said it received notices Google pulled six of its articles. Three of the articles are about a now-retired Scottish Premier League referee who had lied about the reasons for granting a team a penalty.

The Mail Online has similar stories on the same Scottish Premier League referee yanked.

The BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston, for his part, was informed by the company it would remove a link on its European search results to a blog he wrote in 2007.

“Notice of removal from Google Search: we regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google,” wrote Google.

Peston’s blog had mentioned the name of the former boss of the investment bank Merrill Lynch, Stan O'Neal.

The request sparked accusations the investment banker had asked Google to remove his name. O'Neal is the only name mentioned in the blog entry.

Peston inquired on the “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” basis of the decision.

But links to the blog mentioning Stan O’Neal remained online.

Peston says O’Neal had not made the request after all. Instead, the request mostly likely came from someone who left a public comment on his blog.

Peston says Google “has gone a bit over the top in restricting searches” to his blog.

The BBC Google dispute has garnered the attention of the European Commission.

EU digital spokesperson Ryan Heath said Google appears to be accepting all the requests “on the cheap.”

“It may be that they’ve decided that it’s simply cheaper to just say yes to all of these requests. That’s going to spark its own debate, and rightly so,” he told the BBC.

Robert Shrimsley, a Financial Times’s columnist and the editor of the FT’s website, in a tweet wrote:

“Notable that Google is interpreting the right to be forgotten rules in the way most likely to upset journalists.”

Google, for its part, defended its actions.

“This is a new and evolving process for us. We'll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling,” noted a Google spokesperson.

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