'Right to be forgotten' hits media on Google

Among the early successful invokers of the digital world's newly recognised ''right to be forgotten'' on Google are a disgraced football coach and an investment banker involved in the global financial crisis.

Three major international news groups had received "notice of removal" emails from Google earlier this week explaining several of their articles would no longer be findable via the search engine.

The action results from a European Court of Justice ruling in May, which allows European citizens to have information on them deleted from search engines on grounds such as "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed''. The links would, however be removed from European Google searches only.

The three affected news organisations so far - the BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Mail - are all UK-based and have no right to appeal the decisions, nor have they received explanations as to which articles were blocked.

Three articles in the The Guardian about the disgraced Scottish Premier League referee Dougie McDonald had already been blocked from European searches.

The EU's Right To Be Forgotten removals have been ongoing for about a week on Google, which means that in some searches relating to certain people, the news stories cannot be found.

The BBC and The Guardian have shared examples of content that's now been ''forgotten'' in Google and though the stories remain on the sites of both publications, these cannot be located for certain searches related to the names of individuals they are about.

The forgotten pieces include:

  • Three stories from October and November 2010 about Scottish football referee Dougie McDonald, who lied about reversing a similar penalty and admitted to it
  • A 2002 story about Paul Baxendale-Walker who was accused of fraud but was later found not guilty of that charge (The Guardian)
  • An archive page featuring a week's news, where it was hard to tell which person might have been involved (The Guardian)
  • An article on workers in France decorating their office windows with Post-It notes (The Guardian)
  • A 2007 commentary about the then chair of Merrill Lynch Stan O'Neal (BBC)

The media outlets came to know about the stories being dropped from Google because both had received the new notices that Google was sending out to inform publishers when removals took place.