Spain tells Google to remove ‘libelous’ links

Google will this week appear in a Spanish court to fight a government demand to remove search results which have been claimed to be defamatory.

Spain’s data protection authority has demanded that the company remove nearly 100 results from its search listings on the grounds that they are libelous. The move follows complaints from the subjects of the original articles.

If successful, the take-down could imply that Google should be responsible for checking the content of every single page to which it links.

“We are disappointed by the actions of the Spanish privacy regulator. Spanish and European law rightly hold the publisher of the material responsible for its content,” Peter Barron, Google’s director of external relations for Europe, told the Guardian.

“Requiring intermediaries like search engines to censor material published by others would have a profound, chilling effect on free expression without protecting people’s privacy.”

In a Madrid court on Wednesday, Google will defend its right to link to five of the disputed articles, which appear in publications including El Pais and official documents.

Even if the Agencia Espanola de Protection de Datos is successful in forcing Google to remove them, it has no power to do the same to the original publications, as newspapers can legally refuse to comply.