Google may be a bit overzealous in its compliance with the European Union's ruling in favor of the "right to be forgotten." Since the decision Google has removed more than 250,000 links from its search results and is now re-instating some due to backlash about removal decision-making.
Google has been receiving around 1,000 takedown requests each day, each of which contain about four links on average. This has amounted to a staggering number of links being removed so far, including links to pages on news websites such as The Guardian and BBC News.
The EU ruled in May that information detrimental to a person's reputation must be removed from search engine results upon request, so long as that information is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant." The court was unclear on how Google was expected to make this determination, but it appears that Google is simply removing all links that are the target of takedown requests.
This could simply be an effort to save time and avoid bias in deciding which links to take down, but Google may also be making a statement. News sources like BBC have taken issue with article links being removed, and people have expressed concerns that removing these links is tantamount to censorship. WIth Google unable to appeal the ruling of the court, the possibility remains that this is a play to raise awareness of the issue and create a public outcry against the ruling.
Google has begun to re-instate search link results.
"Google may be choosing to go overboard to essentially create a debate about censorship," said Joel Reidenberg, a professor with Fordham University.
Links removed so far include a stories about a lawyer accused of fraud, a scandal involving a soccer referee, and a couple having sex on a train. Links can still be viewed by performing searches using the U.S.-based google.com instead of the EU website, and only searches of the affected person's name will have results removed. However, the search engine remains the most common way for people to find news articles on a particular subject, and these removals could seriously affect Internet journalism.
"The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression - our journalism can be found only until someone asks for it to be hidden," says James Ball, a writer for The Guardian.
The EU has announced no plans ot revisit its ruling so far, saying only that Google's decision to remove links to news articles was not in good judgment.