The controversy around Europe’s “right to be forgotten” decision involving Google and other search engines continues to broil as publishers get caught in the mix. The Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) decision in the case of Google Inc. and Google Spain against the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos — the Spanish data protection authority — has resulted in tens of thousands of link-removal requests. Google has been trying to figure out how to manage those requests, i.e., approve certain ones, deny others, and go about actually removing them from search indices.
Many tech leaders, companies, and media outlets have a problem with the CJEU’s decision. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned that removing web content borders on “censoring history”. The BBC has gone so far as to announce that it will be publishing a list of links removed by Google in an effort to affirm the public’s “right to remember”. The news outlet claims that some of its content has been un-indexed wrongfully, and that it deserves the right to provide context for why the content should remain searchable on Google. TheNextWeb quotes David Jordan, director for editorial policy and standards at the BBC:
It would be desirable for publishers to be consulted before Google takes a decision on whether or not to remove a link to an online article. Publishers have the full background of the story, insight as to whether a request has come in previously, and if so why we took the decision not to comply, or if certain changes were offered/made.
The Guardian has also come forth in support of the “right to remember”, its officials stating that there should be more transparency around content removal. The media’s issue here highlights the very core of the “right to be forgotten” problem: search engines have historically claimed that they are not responsible for the content linked through their services, but rather the publishers themselves should be the parties in charge of removing content.
No doubt this debate will continue to rage as long as media outlets desire any semblance of control over the visibility of their content. The CJEU’s decision affects a wide range of publishers — some of whom are afraid of suffering lower search rankings as their content is removed. But the decision remains unamended thus far, putting the onus on Google to obey the public’s right to have certain information un-indexed.