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article imageOp-Ed: BBC vs Google over 'the right to be forgotten'

By Tim Sandle     Oct 18, 2014 in Internet
The BBC is to publish a continually updated list of its articles removed from Google. This is a direct challenge to Google's controversial "right to be forgotten" rule.
The "right to be forgotten" is a rule that exists within Europe. Through this rule an attempt can be made to re-write history whereby people can apply to Google to have certain websites removed from Google's powerful search engine.
The law came about, according to New Yorker magazine, when a Spanish newspaper called La Vanguardia, back in 1998, published two small notices stating that some property owned by a lawyer named Mario Costeja González was going to be auctioned to pay off his debts. Over time Costeja cleared up the financial difficulties,; however, the newspaper records continued to surface whenever anyone Googled his name. González felt this was unfair and that it painted a false picture of his current solvency. To cut a long story short, earlier in 2014 the European Court of Justice, hearing the González case, agreed that the newspaper could continue to host the news story about the bankruptcy (given that it happened). However, Google was prohibited from linking to the news sites through its search engine.
The case paved the way for any citizen within the European Union to contact Google and ask for specific web links to be removed. Contacting Google did not mean that the request would always be granted; however, Google would need to provide a sound reason as to why the request would not be enacted. The court directed that if the case was proven that a given web link was "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed", the Google would need to remove it.
In early October Google updated its statistics with how many links it had removed since the ruling. The company had received 144,954 requests and has approved around half of them. Across Europe, Business Insider notes that Google has received the most requests from France (28,912) and the least number of requests from Liechtenstein (55).
The decision has proved controversial with many news outlets. The BBC, which is arguably the biggest media outlet in the world, believes that some of its articles have been wrongly hidden. David Jordan, who heads up the BBC's editorial policy group, said that a bigger issue is at stake: the public's "right to remember."
So far, 46 articles published by the BBC have been removed. As a counter measure, aimed at transparency, the BBC will begin publishing the list of removed URLs on a special web page.
As an example as to what the British government funded media body sees as a point of stupidity stemming from the European ruling, the BBC cites an economics article written by the journalist Robert Peston on July 2, 2014. The BBC, like Digital Journal, allows comments to be made underneath articles. One person had made a comment which they later wished to retract. They contacted Google, and the entire article was removed from Google's search engine. There was no suggestion that any of the article's content was incorrect or that it warranted removal. As such, the BBC indicates that it is disputing Google's decision here and in relation to most of its 46 articles that have been "hidden" from the search engine.
The Guardian has raised another problem with the current ruling. What happens if content unrelated to removal requests is de-indexed because people have the same name as those who request search results be removed?
Google has reacted to some of the criticisms by announcing that it intends to set-up an advisory council on the right to be forgotten, which will includes figures such as Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Sylvie Kauffmann of Le Monde.
This case throws up an interesting issue for debate: is the right to freedom of expression more important than the right to privacy? How should these intertwined "rights" be played out through the Internet? Does creating a right to be forgotten decrease the quality of the Internet through censorship and a rewriting of history? What should the opinion of Digital Journal be?
Please use the comments section below to express your opinions on this important subject.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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