The nearly two months old right-to-be-forgotten ruling, handed down from the European Union Court of Justice, has resulted in Google receiving more than 70,000 requests to remove links to more than 276,000 web pages. The search-engine titan has already come under fire for attempting to manipulate the press by granting requests to remove newspaper articles, including pages from the Guardian and Daily Mail.  Google has hired a team of “paralegals” to vet requests for take-downs.  If the team takes down a link, any third party can contact their local Data Protection Authority (DPA) to reverse the decision and reinstate the link.  The company can also bounce the removal requests to the Information Commissioners office immediately and, if it chooses to, appeal each pro-removal ruling made by the ICO.

With these procedures in mind, newspapers have begun criticizing Google’s take-down decisions.  Andrew Orlowski, of The Register, accused Google of purposefully removing journalists’ links in an effort to turn the media against the recent court ruling.  He suggests that if Google was as committed to preserving its search results as it claims, the company could take on the responsibility of appealing each and every ruling made by the ICO.  Instead, Orlowski speculates that Google is targeting high-profile links, and alerting journalists when their links are removed, as a public-relations campaign to change the law.  The Financial Times’s Robert Shrimsley interprets Google’s actions the same way; on Twitter, Shrimsley stated, it’s “notable that Google is interpreting the right to be forgotten rules in the way most likely to upset journalists,” later asserting Google was using “passive aggression” in its decisions.  While tens of thousands of appeals taken on by Google may seem attractive to a newspaper, the internet company may not be interested in footing the bill.

Instead of accusing Google of sabotaging the new ruling, other news outlets call for increased transparency of Google’s decision-making process.  One Guardian article was removed because the comments on the post, not the article itself, were the subject of the removal request. A spokesperson called for “Google to be transparent about the criteria it is using to make these decisions, and how publishers can challenge them.”  The spokesperson also criticized Google’s “overly broad interpretation” of the ECJ judgment.  Jimmy Wales, one of the members of a committee formed by Google to examine how to implement the ECJ ruling, saw the recent-take downs in a different light, commenting: “This is what I have been saying. Censoring Google is censoring the press.”  Media outlets have legitimate concerns about Google’s procedures and motivations for taking down articles.  However, beyond more transparency, media outlets have not provided a working solution for Google to both respect the ruling and the journalists’ desire to maintain internet presence.

–Torrey Samson

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