Science and Tech


Right To Be Forgotten Is Live: Clear History, Unclear Future

After the EU Court of Justice ruled Google must remove certain search results at the request of citizens, some are concerned it encourages censorship.
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jul 03, 2014

If you haven't heard, the European Court of Justice ruled in May that Google must remove "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" search results if an EU citizen requests such a removal. 

The ruling is being called "The Right To Be Forgotten," and now that Google has begun to forget certain search results, several publications are taking notice and fighting back. (Via Flickr / brionv)

The latest outcry seems to have picked up steam, following the publication of BBC editor Robert Peston's article who says Google "cast [him] into oblivion."

Google notified the outlet that this article from 2007, criticizing Merrill Lynch's former chairman Stan O'Neal, would no longer show up in Google's European search results "in response to certain searches." (Via BBC)

Peston goes on to say "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." (Via BBC)

And The Guardian received some notifications of its own. Articles relating to a Scottish Football referee's controversial penalty decision have been hidden on Google's European site.

For its part, The Guardian appears to be fighting back by creating a Twitter account that will tweet out the link to hidden articles. (Via Twitter / @gdnvanished)

The Financial Times says these removals raise concerns over censorship. The publication quotes one MP, who says "this Draconian European court ruling risks turning internet search engines ... into arbitrary censors."

It's important to note while Google does indeed remove search results in response to requests, it doesn't, and can't, remove the actual content it links to — we were able to display the forgotten BBC article, after all.

What's more — the articles are only forgotten under certain search terms. For example, say a man named Bill White requested his name not return certain search results. Searching "William White" would still return results until Mr. White sent in a separate request for that name.

 There's also the whole argument that Google isn't the only search engine in existence. 

According to Experian, as of June 28, 2014, Google does claim nearly 70% of search engine visits, but Yahoo!, Bing,, and AOL Search all make the Top 5 Search Engines list. 

And only Google's European search results are filtered. In the bottom right corner of the Google UK site, users can click the link to visit the unfiltered

So while the EU's "Right To Be Forgotten" may bring up some censorship concerns, know there are other, unfiltered options available.