Google has been ordered by European authorities to remove links to news stories about the fact that Google was ordered by European authorities to remove links to news stories.
Yes, you read that right.
Here’s how that’s possible. A little over a year ago, the European Union passed its so-called “Right to be forgotten” law, which compels search engines like Google to remove search listings about people if they get the appropriate court orders.
The law came about because a Spanish man complained that when you Googled his name in 2010, results came up about his home being repossessed in 1998. That’s a long time for your online reputation to be hurt by one bad or unfortunate event.
Since then, Google has fielded more than 280,000 requests to remove more than 1 million web pages from its search index.
Understand that Google didn’t write or commission these posts. Google had nothing to do with them. All Google does is index them, along with the billions and billions of other pages on the web, so that people can find them when they search.
The latest order from the UK Information Commissioner’s office, as reported by The Guardian, is ordering Google to remove links to nine current news stories. Those stories are about the fact that, earlier this year, Google was forced to remove a bunch of older news stories that talked about a person’s decade-old criminal offence.
The latest 9 stories mention that same person and the offence, so they’re now covered by the order as well.
This is the kind of endless whack-a-mole game that comes about when governments use blunt instruments to censor the internet. It’s a sad fact that content on the internet lives forever — or until the organisation hosting it takes it down, at least. Asking Google to remove that content from its search engine is akin to asking libraries to remove news stories about individuals from their archives.
But the law is the law. Google has until September 22 to comply or appeal.