Good job Google

July 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

has been accused of misinterpreting a European court’s “right to be forgotten” ruling by deleting links to apparently harmless news articles in a bid to whip up anger against “censorship”.

Articles about a former Merrill Lynch banker, the singer Kelly Osbourne, a football referee involved in a controversial penalty decision, and a “foul-mouthed” former president of the Law Society were among the first tranche of web stories to be removed from search results, it emerged yesterday.

The move by Google comes weeks after a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice which upheld the “right to be forgotten” and sparked a debate over how to balance freedom of expression and public interest with the right to privacy.

Details of the first article to be “hidden” by the search engine created a backlash against the court ruling yesterday, but by last night there were growing questions about how Google was handling the take-down requests.

Ryan Heath, spokesman for the European Commission’s vice-president Neelie Kroes, said that Google’s decision to remove a BBC article by the economics editor Robert Peston about the ex-Merrill Lynch boss Stan O’Neal – one of those blamed for helping cause the global financial crisis – was “not a good judgement”.

He said he could not see a “reasonable public interest” for the action, adding that the court ruling should not allow people to “Photoshop their lives”.

That’s exactly what the court ruling allowed. Good on Google for making people aware the impact of the ruling.

Describing Google’s actions as “tactical”, he added: “It may be that they’ve decided that it’s simply cheaper to just say yes to all of these requests.”

Of course it is cheaper. do they really think Google is going to hire 200 lawyers to spend hours or days on each request considering the merits extensively. Of course not. They will take the option with least legal risk, and act on almost all requests – because that is the position the stupid European Court has put them in.

Privacy campaigners accused the internet giant of playing “silly political games” in an attempt to undermine the ruling. Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group, said: “The ruling was clear that results that relate to articles that are in the public interest shouldn’t be removed.”

Who decides the public interest? Google? I don’t want Google deciding the public interest. The decision should be made by individual publishers whether to keep content on the Internet, and not by search engines on whether to index it.

Google is struggling to deal with the volume of demands. Around 70,000 requests for links to be removed have been made in the past month – more than 8,000 [8,497] of which were from Britain – it emerged yesterday. If all demands were met, more than a quarter of a million [267,550] web pages would be deleted – around 34,000 [34,597] as a result of complaints made by people in Britain.

This is why Jimmy Wales called the ruling the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet.

70,000 requests being made per month. If each request takes an hour to consider, then that is 70,000 hours of staff (probably lawyers) time needed per month. So around 450 lawyers needed just to deal with the requests. Sheer madness.

Emma Carr, acting director, Big Brother Watch, cited Google’s decision to remove a link to the blog, which featured “wholly accurate and legal content”, as highlighting “exactly why the ECJ ruling was ridiculous and detrimental to freedom of the press in Europe.”

And Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, a member of an expert panel set up by Google to help it deal with the controversy, condemned the European ruling as “an utter and complete disaster” and branded it “a major human rights violation”. The judgment is “clear and direct censorship of the worst kind,” he said.

It is. But here is the sad thing. If this was a court ruling in almost any other place, the law could just be changed to over-rule the court. But pretty much the only way to get rid of this, is by leaving the EU and the jurisdiction of the European Court.

It is not just Google which is being swamped with demands for links to be removed. The rate at which the BBC is receiving requests for stories to be deleted from its website has prompted the broadcaster to issue new guidance on “unpublishing” content.

David Jordan, BBC director of editorial policy and standards, said: “Sometimes the people we feature in our news reports want the news about themselves to be erased so they can obscure the events they were involved in, or the comments they made to us and stop others finding them.”

The new guidance states that material on the BBC website is part of a “permanently accessible archive” and will not be removed or changed unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. It adds: “Removing online content, particularly news items, risks the accusation that we are erasing the past or altering history.”

On this I agree with the BBC.

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26 Responses to “Good job Google”

  1. Kiwi Dave (88 comments) says:

    “He who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984.

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  2. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    “On this I agree with the BBC.”

    Don’t trust the Biased Broadcasting corporation.
    They don’t mind changing history as long as it is in the ‘right (left) direction’.

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  3. Fletch (6,296 comments) says:

    I can see plusses and minuses in this.
    The internet used to be a kind of communal memory – and words that politicians or others muttered on video, posted on blogs or which were reported in news stories could be dug through at a later time and they could be confronted with them.

    Now, if I am a public figure who flip-flops on a subject, what is to prevent me from going to Google and requesting my previous statement be taken down or removed?

    Stuff is disappearing down the memory hole.

    I wonder if this relates to other search engines as well?

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  4. Chris2 (763 comments) says:

    I don’t quite understand how the European court can essentially “make law” (like this case) and then impose it on its member counties. Doesn’t this diminish the sovereignty of countries to make their own law?

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  5. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    “Doesn’t this diminish the sovereignty of countries to make their own law?”

    Counties in the EC have given up their sovereignty since the Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states on 13 December 2007.

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  6. rouppe (967 comments) says:

    Someone should ask for all the global warming links to be removed, “in the public interest”

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  7. stephieboy (2,801 comments) says:

    Give up their Sovereignty.? True but which there is a growing groundswelll of public opinion esepecially in the UK to reclaim it back.The quote by Orwell is most apt and may the resistance against the European Court’s dumb ruling grow and become unstoppable.
    Good to see the BBC apparently becoming apart of that resistance.!

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  8. Scott1 (530 comments) says:

    Fletch,
    To me that sounds like minuses and minuses. Politicians should be held more accountable for incorrect predictions and inappropriate comments to private audiences than they are today, not less.

    If there is a problem here it is with the media creating a beat up on an issue that isn’t an important issue (like for example a quote out of context). The solution there would seem to be holding the media more to account for those cases where they do that sort of thing.

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  9. s.russell (1,621 comments) says:

    I imagine David Cunliffe will be salivating this. He would love to have all coverage of everything he has said deleted from the internet.

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  10. Harriet (4,857 comments) says:

    “…..BBC website is part of a “permanently accessible archive” and will not be removed or changed unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. It adds: “Removing online content, particularly news items, risks the accusation that we are erasing the past or altering history.”……”

    Removing, hiding, denying access ect are the same things!!

    The aussie ABC does it all the time – with those groups that they like of course -remeber the gay dad’s who were interviewed by the ABC about being ‘great gay dads’ —— well that got taken down as soon as they were outed as filthy child molesters. This happens regulary at the ABC. The report about the climate scientists getting trapped in snow ice “can’t be found at this time. Search again later. ”

    The BBC wouldn’t be any different.

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  11. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    Hey BBC, where is David Bellamy?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9817181/David-Bellamy-tells-of-moment-he-was-frozen-out-of-BBC.html

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  12. stephieboy (2,801 comments) says:

    Harriet, the allegations against the ABC.? Could you document them or is this another of your far right “PC ” mongering.?

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  13. stephieboy (2,801 comments) says:

    Other Andy, David Bellamy has given inconstant accounts about his departure from the BBC.He clairmed in 1996 it was for his opposition in a program to wind farms but had left the BBC in 1994. Another was that he ran against John Major in an EC based referendum party. He has claimed a number of BBC based conspiracies against hiim all short on facts.

    http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/david-bellamy-victim-but-of-who/

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  14. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    The thing is Google may delete stories but other search engines will still have them.

    Or do all the other search engines quote from Google …….faaaa…that would be a sad indictment of the internet!.

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  15. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    @sb

    Greenfyre, that sounds like a trustworthy website….
    Not.

    Greenfyre is the Internet blog and screen name for a radical environmental activist, Mike Kaulbars from Ottawa, Canada. He is a founder of the Earth First! chapter in Ottawa, Canada, an eco-terrorist organization with a long history of violence and sabotage.

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  16. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    “words that politicians or others muttered on video, posted on blogs or which were reported in news stories could be dug through at a later time and they could be confronted with them.”

    That’s why political statements are taken off the internet. Within seconds. You have to print MP quotes immediately before they disappear.

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  17. tas (623 comments) says:

    At the very least Google should be allowed to charge a processing fee for each request. That would both reduce the number and pay the enormous cost of processing requests in a proper manner.

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  18. tas (623 comments) says:

    Or maybe Google can forward 70000 requests per month to the European Court and seek their declaration on each and every one of them.

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  19. m@tt (628 comments) says:

    This is starting to border on hysterical. This only applies to Google indexing, not actual content, and is only possible because of the search model Google wield as a virtual monopoly.
    Watch for the rise of distributed searching algorithms with no central filtering possible, they already exists to service states where filtering is mandated and now they have another reason to be taken up. This is the real reason Google are playing silly buggers, the threat of their flagship product having it’s major weakness exposed.

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  20. stephieboy (2,801 comments) says:

    Other Andy, radical activist or not does the points Mike Kaulbars raise true or not.? Did David Bellamy question e.g Wind farms whilst employed by the BBC or not.?
    Are his claims factual or more based on Conspiracy theory.?

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  21. PaulL (5,971 comments) says:

    Yes, this is exactly the problem. This will act to make it harder for Google to do business, and people will stop going to Google for their internet content because it’s no longer an exhaustive index. An individual wanting to have their information “forgotten” will go to Google because it’s easy, but who’ll bother going to bing, to duck-duck-go etc to ask them to forget too. So Google will start losing business, new search engines will start up. People will then start asking those search engines to forget too, and yet more will start up. The result is that this ruling will for a short term allow forgetting, but in the medium term just transfers wealth from Google (and Google shareholders, no doubt including me through my pension fund) to other companies (probably including Microsoft, which my pension fund probably also owns). But it will have no effect. The only possible way this can work is to ask for the original material to be taken down. But it appears the judge has already decided that wouldn’t be consistent with human rights. Stupid, as always.

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  22. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    stephieboy says:

    “Other Andy, radical activist or not does the points Mike Kaulbars raise true or not.? Did David Bellamy question e.g Wind farms whilst employed by the BBC or not.?
    Are his claims factual or more based on Conspiracy theory.?”

    If you had read the Telegraph article you would have found that David questions windmills, so what?
    For the rest of the article….
    I’ll always try to read past the rhetoric and look at the facts.
    However, I (For personal reasons) draw the line at creeps who accuse others of being akin to holocaust deniers because they disagree with them.

    I’ll take David Bellamy’s word over that of an abusive and convicted felon.
    If you have any other proof (without the abusive rubbish) that David is incorrect please provide a link.

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  23. stephieboy (2,801 comments) says:

    Other Andy,

    Try these two references here,

    One from Wiki and another from The  Guardian ,

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bellamy

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/dec/04/climate-change-scepticism-climate-change

    David Bellamy made his claim in 2004 but had not made any TV programs for the BBC since 1994.

    Now go and figure.!

    Also note the Wiki entry about his New Scientist article 2005  claiming the glacier retreat was not as extensive as thought.But he had to withdraw his claims as his article was based one in 1989 which was found to  be incorrect.

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  24. laworder (290 comments) says:

    Kiwi Dave wrote


    “He who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984.

    I’m heartened to see that people understand the implications of this appalling EU ruling. Fletch mentions “stuff disappearing down the memory hole” – stuff like past convictions, fraud etc etc. The memory hole too is a concept that comes straight from Orwell’s 1984

    Regards
    Peter J

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  25. Other_Andy (2,623 comments) says:

    @SB

    Thanks for taking the time to get the links.

    I did read the Wiki entry quickly but hadn’t read the part where it says
    “However, The Guardian newspaper has pointed out that Bellamy stopped making television programmes in 1994, some ten years before his first public statement showed scepticism about climate change ..”

    This statement is the Guardian link.

    I have in the past found the Guardian highly partisan and, worse, unreliable so excuse me for cross checking this ‘Guardian fact’
    Now I am not a fan of the Independent but read this:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/david-bellamy-i-was-shunned-they-didnt-want-to-hear-8449307.html

    1992 Questions the science behind climate change at an intergovernmental policy committee meeting.
    2004 Again attacks climate change, calling it “poppycock”.

    So the ‘fact’ that “Bellamy stopped making television programmes in 1994, some ten years before his first public statement showed scepticism about climate change” is incorrect.
    As all the other statements are based on the ‘incorrect fact’ (I would call it a straight lie but I am being charitable) from the Guardian all the other statements trying to smear David Bellamy are also incorrect (lies).

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  26. Bill Bennett (31 comments) says:

    On the other hand I can see how it might make sense for a court to tell Google to remove defamatory information from the record. Or material that’s in contempt of court.

    But when information hasn’t been legally tested in court, removing it just because someone doesn’t want it out there is bonkers. What’s next, companies lining up to have negative product reviews removed from the record?

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