The ruling left some room for interpretation saying that there needs to be a balance between public interest and the impact that such information can have on people’s lives. One of the first links removed was a BBC article about the former CEO of Merrill Lynch. In the mid 2000s he was at the bank when the mortgage crisis began. Merrill lost a lot of money; Stan O’Neal lost his job but left with a $161.5 million settlement. There is nothing incorrect in the article yet Google removed the link.
According to a report by Business Insider, fears about the ruling are coming to fruition: “[Google] is censoring the internet, giving new tools that help the rich and powerful (and ordinary folk) hide negative information about them, and letting criminals make their histories disappear.”
As the author of the Merrill Lynch article, Robert Petson of the BBC feels he is being censored. In a response to the removal of the link from European search results (this link will still be available in search results outside the EU) he stated, “What it means is that a blog I wrote in 2007 will no longer be findable when searching on Google in Europe.Which means that to all intents and purposes the article has been removed from the public record, given that Google is the route to information and stories for most people. So why has Google killed this example of my journalism?”
Although the BBC received the notice that the link is being removed, it still remains available in results as of yesterday.
Guy Clapperton at Forbes said that publicizing this particular link removal could be a strategic move on Google’s part to demonstrate the flaws of the decision. Google was against the ruling.
“Google opposed the idea but the courts overruled it, which is why going for Peston and the BBC was actually a brilliant move. We’re a small island here with a national broadcaster, paid for by the State but rigorously independent. Peston is one of our leading journalists,” Clapperton said. “He of all people was bound to make one hell of an unholy fuss when his valid work was airbrushed out of history, and he has a major platform from which to make his disquiet felt.”
His further point is that small businesses in the US rely on Google for research. The potential impact of EU businesses having links removed they simply don’t like is the inability for those wishing to do business in the EU to do good research.
“If the ruling falls apart, good. I’m not in favor of people rewriting history because they wish they hadn’t said or done something. In the meantime, if you or your company need to research anything in Europe, remember that until further notice if you use Google then through no fault of the search engine itself, the facts may have been doctored.” said Clapperton.
The Guardian also feels it is being censored. So far links to 6 articles have been removed. “Publishers must fight back against this indirect challenge to press freedom, which allows articles to be ‘disappeared’. Editorial decisions belong with them, not Google.”
Three of the article links from the Guardian that were deleted are in relation to Dougie McDonald. He is a retired Scottish Premier League referee who lied about a penalty in a match and had to resign. The other articles were from 2002, 2011 and an entire week of indexed articles. No reasons were given by Google for the deletions, just an automated notification.
“The Guardian has no form of appeal against parts of its journalism being made all but impossible for most of Europe’s 368 million to find. The strange aspect of the ruling is all the content is still there: if you click the links in this article, you can read all the “disappeared” stories on this site. No one has suggested the stories weren’t true, fair or accurate. But still they are made hard for anyone to find.”