BBC Disrespects EU’s Right to Be Forgotten – Publishes List of Pages Removed

/ 1 year ago

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The BBC, in flagrant disregard of the European Union’s ‘right to be forgotten’ law, has published a list of its own webpages that have been removed from search engine listings via the ruling, promising to update the list frequently.

The EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation is designed to protect individuals from being persecuted or discriminated against due to past indiscretions, achieved by removing potentially stigmatising materials from search engine results. By publishing a list of pages and articles that have been hidden due to this ruling, the BBC is effectively neutering its intent.

The BBC blog reads:

Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals.

Following the ruling, Google removed a large number of links from its search results, including some to BBC web pages, and continues to delist pages from BBC Online.

The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google’s search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we’ll republish this list with new removals added at the top.

We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the “right to be forgotten” can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC’s online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.

This seems scant justification, since the listings have only been removed from search engines, not from the BBC site itself; they have not been deleted, and still show up through internal searches on the BBC website, so to draw attention to pieces that have been hidden from external searches opens them up to speculation. Since the source of the ‘right to be forgotten’ request is entitled to anonymity, persons unrelated to the removal could be persecuted over it, amplifying the very behaviour the EU sought to nullify.

While he BBC does add the caveat, “when looking through this list it is worth noting that we are not told who has requested the delisting, and we should not leap to conclusions as to who is responsible. The request may not have come from the obvious subject of a story,” the statement seems designed to shield itself from any blowback, rather than protect unrelated parties from accusation. I’m sure the EU will be having a disgruntled word in the BBC’s ear quite soon.

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  • Wade Womersley

    It is the right thing to do though – I loathe the fact that law passed – it is such a slap in the face to our rights.

    • Eoin Mc Namara

      In one sense, it does keep searches of celebrities new and upto date. However, whether we should be told to forget something is questionable.
      Honestly, I think tye searches shouldn’t turn up nothing, but have the information far back in a chronological sense.

      • fendjinn

        Deep down in the page rankings you mean ? Yeah, that seems the closest analogue to information still being present in the public record but requiring more digging to find (I mean, not _much_ more digging but some).

        I’m in two minds about this really (though it’s good to see the Beeb taking a stand on principle, even though I expect them to cave eventually if the government really puts the screws on). Given that before too long most news articles will be published and digested on the internet the law creates a real danger of events being rewritten or removed from the record entirely and feels pretty close to stifling free speech.

        That said, a kid who does something dumb at 17 doesn’t necessarily deserve to have it follow them their entire lives, popping up whenever anyone googles their name. People should be allowed to make mistakes without it always becoming their defining characteristic. Previously you could achieve this by just moving to where no-one knows you or at most changing your name but the internet makes that much less effective.