Google ordered to remove links to stores on right to be forgotten

Posted Aug 23, 2015 by James Walker
In a request that has been widely criticised online, the UK has ordered that Google remove links to online news stories that are about it removing links to stories because of right to be forgotten requests. The confusing ruling has not pleased Google.
More than 70 000 people have already asked Google to delete links about them under Europe's &qu...
More than 70,000 people have already asked Google to delete links about them under Europe's "right to be forgotten" ruling, with some of the world biggest news sites the first to be hit
Nicholas Kamm, AFP/File
Ars Technica reports that the order comes from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Google has been told that links pointing to news reports on the removal of links because of right to be forgotten requests must be delisted from its search results within the next 35 days.
The ICO says that affected news reports have repeated details of the criminal offence leading to the right to be forgotten request, causing the article to be displayed when the complainant's name is searched in Google. The search engine is understandably unhappy at having even more EU legislation imposed on it but its only option is to make an appeal against the ICO.
The company could be hit with serious monetary fines if it fails to comply with the ruling. Opting not to remove the links would constitute a criminal offence that the ICO could bring Google in front of a Magistrate's Court for.
The ruling seems to be an escalation of the right to be forgotten legislation now enforced throughout the European Union. Increasingly, the mechanism - where EU citizens can request to have links to webpages removed from search engine results pages - has been seen as a way to censor information that should be kept in the public domain.
Google has argued that there is no need to remove links to news articles about right to be forgotten requests. The ICO wrote in a press release that Google "argued these links were to articles that concerned one of its decisions to delist a search result and that the articles were an essential part of a recent news story relating to a matter of significant public importance."
The ICO argues in response: "We understand that links being removed as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write about. And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories through search engines like Google. But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant's name."
The Commissioner's Office adds that it "recognises that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest." The decision to make Google remove links to news articles about removing links has led to fears that this newly-proven recursive nature of the right to be forgotten legislation could lead to the removal of links to reports on the decision itself.
There are additional concerns surrounding whether the ICO will allow pages detailing removed listings to stay online. News organisations including the BBC have set up such directories recently, allowing users to see what has been delisted from search results. Freedom of information advocates are concerned that we are entering an age where any online article referencing controversial information could be hidden from easy public viewing.