Google “Censorship” in Europe

After a ruling by the EU Court of Justice, search results in Europe and the rest of the world may differ, due to what critics have labelled as end-user “censorship”.


pen swordA few years ago, internet users publicised their concern about varying search results in different countries. Popular memes included side-by-side screenshots of Google results for the term “Tiananmen Square” in China and the US. The protests of 1989 ranked high in results outside of China, whereas they had been screened out in China’s version of the search engine. The European Union, a more unlikely candidate for scrutiny regarding censorship, is now a place for concern to end users who oppose this move, which could potentially hinder press freedom, and the public’s right to information if it is not strictly limited.

European law now requires Google to implement the right to be forgotten, which enables EU citizens to request the removal of certain links which appear under a name search. The ruling was made in May, and although Google initially criticised it, the company has put the regulations into practice over the last couple of weeks after receiving over 70,000 requests from users.

After reception and accepting of a request, Google then informs the relevant publishers that the articles will be withdrawn from search results. This was done with articles published by British newspapers such as the Guardian and BBC, who publicised the moves which created more attention to the respective articles. Google removed a BBC article about a Merrill Lynch CEO, who was fired after the bank suffered billions of dollars in losses, and an article in the Guardian about a soccer referee who lied about a penalty decision. Following the hype and disapproval created by British newspapers, Google restored the links to some of the deleted articles.

The move to restore deleted links indicates that Google is struggling with adhering to the ruling and raises doubts as to its ability to be implemented successfully. Google representatives have also commented that search results on their primary domain will not be altered, as the site is not targeted at a European audience. Perhaps this is Google’s way of saying that the company supports press freedom. And the consumer’s right to open information over the right of individuals, to decide what they want the public to see.

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