Another Right To Be Forgotten Request Backfires Completely

from the the-only-way-it-was-ever-going-to-play-out dept

When the EU Court of Justice issued its “right to be forgotten” ruling, it seemed to forget that there are many more parties involved than simply the aggrieved person standing in front of them. There are those whose articles are being delisted, many of which are journalistic institutions that aren’t going to simply lay there and allow some third party to selectively edit their publications.

The Bolton News (UK) just received notification from Google that one of its stories was due to be vanished from Google’s search engine. Needless to say, this request has produced another story highlighting the original story the filer(s) wanted delisted.

A STORY in The Bolton News has come under the spotlight of the controversial new “right to be forgotten” ruling…

The 2010 story details a court case in which Ben Barlow, Christopher Mahoney and Christopher Brennan were jailed after they pleaded guilty to violent disorder. They had attacked a group of soldiers who had all served in Afghanistan. The victims told the court they were more frightened in the pub than they had been on the front line.

[…]

In the attack, the thugs glassed paratrooper Adam Evans in the neck and stabbed him in the leg. Another of the soldiers, Jamie Morton, who was kicked and punched on the ground, said he feared he was going to die.

At the trial of the three men, Judge William Morris said: “These victims were all injured. Mr Evans was very gravely injured indeed.”

Someone thought this story should just go away. The Bolton News thought otherwise. Now, whoever wanted the original story delisted has another article to add to a future request. But judging from editor-in-chief’s comments, adding Bolton News links to a right to be forgotten request is going to be a waste of time.

“As the editor of a newspaper, I believe passionately in the freedom of the press and I will fight any attempts to remove legitimate content…

“Clearly, people who aren’t happy that stories which we have legitimately published should not have the right to have them removed from a Google search, in my view.”

It sounds like the Bolton News will simply highlight each request as it comes in, defeating the requester’s attempt to bury bad news. Many other journalism outlets have taken the same stance in the last several days, turning the EU court’s ruling into one of the most self-defeating decisions ever rendered.

The only way to prevent this is for the EU court to start taking action against journalistic entities who subvert the spirit of the ruling or ordering Google to stop notifying those affected, neither of which should even be considered by the legal body. The original ruling was terrible enough, especially in its blissful ignorance of how this “right to be forgotten” would work in practice.

Things can be forgotten, even on the internet. But it’s organic. Whatever the steady flow of content doesn’t push aside will likely succumb to link rot at some point. Newspaper websites (a favorite target of right to be forgotten requests) experiment with paywalled archives or otherwise make their older articles unavailable (often just sloppy maintenance or coding), solving many of these complainants’ problems for them. Issuing a request is pretty much guaranteed to bring it all right back to the surface. Forcing this organic process will almost always backfire, something requesters should keep in mind before filling out Google’s webform.

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Comments on “Another Right To Be Forgotten Request Backfires Completely”

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30 Comments
David says:

Good on Google

By Google telling the sites that are getting pages deindexed, it allows full public shaming and Streisanding of the original content. This stupid EU ruling may have a good side effect by highlighting those butthurt by journalists writing about their actions.

For those who want their comment for an article deleted, how about asking the site to delete your comment instead of deindexing the whole page?

Anonymous Coward says:

No right to hide convictions

Whatever one’s view on the right to be forgotten, such a right should never grant convicted criminals any right to censor private speech concerning their lawfully imposed convictions.

Under the First Amendment, we have an absolut right to repeat that John Smith was convicted of theft and shame him forever.

It can’t be libel if it’s true.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a double-edged sword in that it could also be used by crafty individuals to *keep* themselves in the news (“any press is good press”).

Perhaps manipulations of this law could eventually be stymied with some sort of dynamic url system, where urls systematically change over time, ensuring perpetually “freshened” entries in web-crawler caches (although this would pose some challenges to long term hot-linking, etc.).

Gil Fulbright says:

First Kentucky next the World.

Maybe the court and politicians for EU were just trying to pay some lip service to the people of the EU. You know make it look like they are doing something when in reality they aren’t able to or don’t want to do anything.

~I’m Gil Fulbright and I approve this message created by someone else

That One Guy (profile) says:

Enough egg to make a couple dozen omelets

The judges who threw together the disastrous ‘Right to be forgotten’ thing have got to be seriously put out at this point. With Google telling people/groups when something is about to be de-listed, their ruling has caused the exact opposite of what they wanted, showcasing just how stupid it really was.

Given that, and despite the ‘neither of which should even be considered by the legal body’ line in the article, I would not be surprised in the least if they try and go back and order Google to stop informing those affected, since to do otherwise would be to admit to having ruled wrong the first time.

Anonymous Coward says:

This request proves what has been said before about the “right to be forgotten.” The interests of the victims and the public in knowing that these guys were convicted should outweigh the interests of these guys in being forgotten. The story doesn’t belong to the convicts, but to the victims. Unless the victims want it forgotten, the convicts should have no recourse in its remaining in the public memory.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting. Do you notice that every time you write about how the “right to be forgotten” fails you actually report a success story?

– First there is no censorship here. Google search engine is about algorithms, not free speech (this is Google+). I don’t have a source but I remember Google saying that the search results are computed by algorithms and Google is “not guilty” for whatever the rsult is.

– Critics usually point out that the “stupid European judges” “censor” the search engine but not the newspaper. This would be censorship. News in newspapers are done by real people, right?

– But … no sorry, if oue equate “Google” and “the Internet” it’s just your fault. Everybody could visit the relevant newspaper and look what they have and the newspapers could even set up a search engine for their archives. Ok, they don’t.

– The “right to be forgotten”: I think everybody should have the right that things he or she did are forgotten after some time. Just as the guys at Joe’s Diner stop talking (and laughing) about this stupid thing you did in high school. Before Google this happened automatically. Now “not forgetting” is part of a business model (yes, no free speech – just money)

– What the European judges really said that personal information can be removed from Google if it’s “out of interest”. Example: Did anybody here knew about the Spanish guy starting this? So why should anyone care? This is “out of interest”.

– Of course also people more public try to remove information they don’t like to see but as long as these persons are in the public the information are still “of interest”. Such people are just streisanding.

– Summary: the judges said something like “Google shall not replace real human’s memory”.

If you are interested in any information Google is removing from their search results (“convicted John Smith”) feel free to post it on Google+ (“John Smith convicted criminal” and no one – even not the European Court – is keeping you from this. This is (I think) free speech and can be added to Google’s search results.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

First there is no censorship here.

The government demanding that a private entity stop disseminating particular information isn’t censorship? What is your definition of censorship?

Everybody could visit the relevant newspaper and look what they have and the newspapers could even set up a search engine for their archives.

That doesn’t mean telling Google they can’t list those links isn’t censorship.

I think everybody should have the right that things he or she did are forgotten after some time.

Of course you have the right to think that, you should just understand that means everyone would have the right to restrict what everyone else is allowed to talk about. The right to be forgotten is fundamentally incompatible with the right to free expression, and personally I find the latter FAR more important than the former.

What the European judges really said that personal information can be removed from Google if it’s “out of interest”. Example: Did anybody here knew about the Spanish guy starting this? So why should anyone care?

So the ruling only applies to those cases where it isn’t necessary in the first place?

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