UK fights back at the Streisand Effect, orders Google to remove links to "right to be forgotten" stories

Clara Guibourg
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The Information Commissioner's office has ordered Google to remove links to news stories about the right to be forgotten (Source: Getty)

How do you get the internet to forget something? Over a year after the EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling against Google, there’s still a dilemma left unsolved, which the UK has now taken steps to tackle.

The Information Commissioner’s office (ICO) has ordered the search giant to remove links to news stories about the right to be forgotten, referencing reports that had themselves already been removed under the ruling.

Right to be forgottenception.

We’ve all got embarrassing stories about our youth we’d rather not remember. But with the internet all past misdemeanours remain evergreen, showing up in search results about a person. Last year, after a lengthy court battle, the EU ordered that Google had to remove damaging search results if they were no longer relevant.

Read more: Google, the Streisand Effect and the "right to be forgotten" - here's what you need to know

But this creates an unfortunate vicious cycle, as the removal of links in itself becomes a news story that repeats these damaging details. It’s known as the Streisand effect, in which trying to hide or remove information from the internet only serves to publicise it more widely.

Google originally refused requests to remove links to news stories about the ruling, but the Information Commissioner’s ruling means the search giant now has 35 days to remove nine search results to news stories that revealed details that were “no longer relevant”. In the ruling, the ICO admits that although news stories about “right to be forgotten” rulings might be newsworthy, it’s not justified to include links to the content.

Deputy commissioner David Smith compared it to Google removing old results that were impacting individuals’ privacy:

It is wrong of them to now refuse to remove newer links that reveal the same details and have the same negative impact.

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