Be careful what you wish for. ‘Right to forget’ beginning to backfire

Based on an EU court ruling Google has begun removing links to stories that people have requested be removed from search results. But the stories are beginning to get more attention than ever before.

Google began removing links to certain stories in European search results based on requests people have made claiming that the stories were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” That’s what the EU court ordered them to do.

But Google also began sending emails to the publishers of the stories informing them that the links were being removed.

BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston received the following notice:

Notice of removal from Google Search: we regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google:

Peston was curious about which article was being ‘dissapeared’ and who might have made the request. Turns out the only person mentioned in the 2007 article was former Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O’Neal.

Peston promptly wrote a piece about Google’s email and O’Neal’s request to be forgotten.

And that piece got picked up by a whole slew of websites following the ‘right to be forgotten’ issue. And so on, and so on.

The Guardian also received notices from Google about six of their articles. And they too wrote new articles about what the original articles were about and who were the people requesting to be forgotten.

And that story got picked up too.

I applaud Google for doing this. They are following the letter of the law as the EU court has ordered them to but they’ve also unleashed the wrath of some fairly large European media giants.

Years ago, when I was Editor-in-Chief of AmigaWorld magazine, I had a little sign over my desk that read, “It is never, ever a good idea to piss off an editor.”