Plenty Went Wrong On Day One Of The Right To Be Forgotten

July 3, 2014: So far, nothing seems right about the so-called 'right to be forgotten.'


The "right to be forgotten" era officially began in Europe last night, and the results are not pretty.

We've known for a while that online fraudsters and pedophiles dominated the first wave of requests that were sent to Google last month after the controversial ban was legally imposed in Europe.

Now that Google has moved to honor those requests, individual publications have come forward with their protests and the list of stories that have been removed by Google from its search engine.

One such story is about a millionaire banker whose mismanagement played a massive role in the global financial crisis of 2007-08. Another is about Scottish referee Dougie McDonald, who lied about a penalty incident in 2010. An airline company accused of racism by a Muslim job applicant has also gotten its dirt removed from a platform that is by far the most widely used source of information today.

The question is, who would be responsible if someone without the knowledge of this banker, referee or the airline's past ends up trusting them again and suffers personal losses as a consequence? The instances of their infamy are no longer available on Google, so how would their future acquaintances know of that?

As MailOnline publisher Martin Clarke put it, delisting articles is like "going into libraries and burning books you don't like."

Similarly, BBC economics editor Robert Peston was served with a “notice of removal” by Google before some of his stories – which aren't inaccurate at all – were taken down. The one that annoyed him the most was about former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal, whose careless investments resulted in major losses for the company and is believed to have triggered the aforementioned financial crisis.

According to Peston, the right to be forgotten is a flawed concept that is already being exploited "to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest."

Its proponents may not agree with that viewpoint, however, the examples above suggest that's just the case. If not the ruling, the implications of the right to be forgotten certainly leave much to be desired.

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