PinkNews publishes stories removed from Google under ‘right to be forgotten’

Gay news site PinkNews has published a list of 19 stories it says have been removed from Google search results under Europe’s right to be forgotten rules, claiming the legislation is an “infringement of press freedom”.

The stories include allegations of homophobic comments by a BBC star and a report about a gay porn actor attempting to smuggle crystal meth on a transatlantic flight to the UK.

Europe’s right to be forgotten rule has proved controversial, with freedom of information campaigners and media organisations complaining that it is effectively a form of censorship. The rules were introduced in 2014 to allow people to request that articles containing outdated information about them from the results of searches using their name are deleted.

Google’s transparency report says it has received 380,919 requests to remove about 1.3m pages since the rules came into force in May 2014, and that it has complied with around 42% of requests.

An editorial statement accompanying the PinkNews list said the site regularly refused requests to change or take down articles, and only did so if they proved inaccurate or their removal was ordered by court. The publication said it stands by the accuracy of all the articles on the list.

The statement added: “While the media has a legal obligation to be factually correct, the ‘right to be forgotten’ as established by the European Court of Justice instead hinges on the loosely-worded concept of ‘relevance’.

“PinkNews believes these rules are an infringement on press freedom, and have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.”

PinkNews is not the first publisher to respond to having articles de-listed from results by publishing new stories. However, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office ruled last August that articles containing lists of removed articles should also be excluded from results when a person who had made a request under the rules was searched by name. This means the list from PinkNews will also be removed from such searches.

At the time, deputy information commissioner David Smith said: “We understand that links being removed as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write about. And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories through search engines like Google. But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant’s name.”


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