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Google accused of press censorship

Bishkek (AKIpress) - Google’s removal of some search results in Europe is drawing accusations of press censorship, the Irish Examiner wrote Friday.

The US firm has to comply with a strict privacy ruling made in May by the EU’s top court that enables citizens to ask for the removal of embarrassing personal information that pops up on a search of their names.

At least three British media outlets, including The Guardian and BBC, said they have been notified by Google that links to some of their articles were removed from search results in Europe.

The Guardian said six articles have been removed in what the newspaper calls a “challenge to press freedom”. The BBC said one critical blog entry by its economics editor was removed, while the Mail Online saw four articles hit.

“It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like,” Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke said.

BBC economics editor Robert Peston said the removal of his 2007 blog post, which was critical of Merrill Lynch’s then-chief executive Stan O’Neal, means “to all intents and purposes the article has been removed from the public record, given that Google is the route to information and stories for most people”.

Google has a market share of 90% in Europe’s search market. It said the number of requests from people seeking to have some search results removed in Europe has jumped to 70,000 by the end of June.

Google said each application on average asks for the removal of almost four links, meaning experts have to evaluate more than 250,000 requests.

The company is not saying how many appear to fall into areas the court specified as potentially objectionable: Results that are “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”.

Google is only starting to implement the ruling. Several German organisations said they had not yet received notifications on articles scrubbed from searches.

“This is a new and evolving process for us,” Google spokesman Al Verney said. “We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling.”

Proponents of the court decision say it gives individuals the possibility to restore their reputation by deleting references to old debts, past arrests, and other unflattering episodes.

They also note that the court specified Google should not remove links to information when the public’s right to know about it outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.

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