Google search results may indicate 'right to be forgotten' censorship
(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Google is planning to flag up search results it has censored following a controversial ruling that allows European citizens the right to demand information on them to be erased.
The search engine is considering placing an alert at the bottom of each page where it has removed links in the wake of the landmark "right to be forgotten" ruling last month.
The decision by Europe's highest court allows people living in Europe to ask for links to "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" material to be removed from search results, although it will still be available on the original web page.
Google has since been deluged with tens of thousands of requests from internet users to take down sensitive information on them since the ruling by the European court of justice (ECJ) on 13 May.
It is understood Google is planning to flag censored search results in a similar way to how it alerts users to takedown requests over copyright infringing material. For example, a Google search for "Adele MP3" shows that it has removed a number of results from that page after receiving complaints under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Google is also planning to include information about "right to be forgotten" removals in its biannual transparency report, which reveals the number of government requests worldwide to remove material from its search results.
Google said last Monday that it had so far received 41,000 requests to take down sensitive material from people in Europe since the landmark ruling on 13 May, including a politician with a murky past, a convicted paedophile and a man who had attempted to murder his family and wanted to remove links about his crime. Google chief executive Larry Page has said that nearly a third of the 41,000 requests received related to a fraud or scram, one fifth concerned serious crime, and 12% are connected to child pornography arrests.
The search company, which launched an online form two weeks ago for people wanting to airbrush material about their past, does not have to comply with every request, but must consider whether removing information is in the public interest.
Google has set up an advisory committee to issue recommendations about where the boundaries of the public interest lie in the requests, made up of seven people including its executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Wales has described the ECJ ruling as censorship and raised concerns that news organisations would be particularly affected because Google is the primary source through which internet users find information. In an interview with the technology site TechCrunch on this weekend, Wales said: "I think the decision will have no impact on people's right to privacy, because I don't regard truthful information in court records published by court order in a newspaper to be private information. If anything, the decision is likely to simply muddle the interesting philosophical questions and make it more difficult to make real progress on privacy issues.
"In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible 'right' to censor what other people are saying."
Google declined to comment.
(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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