It’s been a while since the European courts gave their support to the “right to be forgotten” legislation which gives users the power to get the contents erased from pages that have been censored. As per this “right”, Google would have to flag “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” content. Europe’s Highest Court has permitted users in Europe to ask for links to such material to be removed from the search listings. However the content would still exist on the main page. This will help users to fine tune their search as per their requirement and avoid censored information.
Ever since this ruling came into effect, the search giant has received tens of thousands of requests that have been made by users from removing information that they have claimed to be sensitive and personal to them. It is expected that the mechanism for this procedure would be similar to the current process for copyright infringement where the reported content is removed from the search results and the search page indicates that some results have been removed due to complaints filed against them under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Google is also in plans to include the “right to be forgotten” feature in its transparency report that is published bi-annually. The report comprises thousands of requests made by Governments to remove content from its relevant search results. This is a common occurrence because information leak on the internet is common and can prove to be fatal if it falls in the wrong hands.
The gravity of the situation can be understood from the fact that from the 41000 requests received from Europe to take down personal information, some requests have come from people with shady backgrounds such as a convicted paedophile, a political figure with a murky past, a man who had been reported for attempted murder on his own family, etc. If the request of such people is processed, then it would become easy for people to carry on a clean image in the virtual community while they continue to pursue their destructive path. There is also the possibility that such people have reformed and want to hide the misgivings of their past. But this is a decision that Google would have to make as the pros and cons are currently in extreme contrast. Whatever the decision may be, there will still be a faction that would be unsatisfied.
CEO – Google Inc, Larry Page, has identified that 33% of the requests pertain to frauds and scams while 20% comprise those who want to remove information about serious crimes committed by them. The most saddening aspect of these requests is that 12% of the total requests are connected with child pornography arrests. Google is not obliged to remove all contents that have been requested by the users. Ideally, it should only remove content that is in the best interests of the public.
The company has already made great progress with this decision as an advisory committee has been set up which comprises 7 eminent people. Executive Chairman – Google, Eric Schmidt, and Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, are part of this committee, which will monitor every request and will conclude whether the removal of a particular content is in the best interests of the public.
Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, said: “The fact that Google plans to add ‘flags’ to search links it has removed does nothing to tackle the fundamental problem with the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling – which is the complete absence of legal oversight in this process. We remain deeply concerned about a ruling that opens the door to a censoring of the past without any proper checks and balances.”
Google has a lot of burden to uphold the integrity of information and to ensure that crucial information about criminals and other antisocial elements are prevented from deletion. People need such information to be available as this will save them from succumbing to the evil intentions of such entities.
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