Google is facing controversy after it has reportedly removed what observers say are harmless news articles as it obeys a European court decision that gave average citizens the ability to request old and irrelevant links to be removed as part of the "right to be forgotten" order. The removal of news articles from certain searches online have led to many arguing Google is attempting to stoke anger against the decision, which it has argued is a form of "censorship."
Among the articles being deleted from specific searches include, but are not limited to, a referee who lied about a penalty, British singer and fashionista Kelly Osborne, a former Merrill Lynch banker and other articles, it has been revealed. News outlets BBC and The Guardian have voiced concerns over the removal of the articles, but the result of the removals have been a debate over how to go forward over the "right to be forgotten" ruling that allows average citizens to request links to things related to them that are irrelevant and dated to be deleted from searches.
Google has been outspoken in its critique of the ruling, which it has said is a form of censorship and that the Internet should remain open and transparent.
European Commission's vice-president Neelie Kroes argued that he sees no "reasonable public interest" for the removal of that specific article, which the court ruling had stated the removal must not see articles and links for public interest taken down. He argued that people should not be given the right to "Photoshop their lives."
He lashed out at Google, saying these are "tactical" decisions aimed at stoking anger at the European court decision by increasing fears of censorship. "It may be that they've decided that it's simply cheaper to just say yes to all these requests."
Privacy groups and activists have also come out against Google's actions.
Executive Director of Open Rights Group Jim Killock said Google may be consciously and specifically removing such links to stoke angst.
"The ruling was clear that results that relate to articles that are in the public interest shouldn't be removed," he was quoted as saying.
Google has received tens of thousands of requests for information to be removed by individuals, but it appears, at least according to reports, that the search company is simply going ahead and removing any and all requests, which observers say is not what the court decision intended.