Wednesday 02 July, 2014
A new ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice says that you have a right to be removed from search engine results. This is implications for reputation management and search marketing. It means that you can be removed and virtually disappear completely from the internet.
Inadequate, Irrelevant or No Longer Relevant
In early May 14, the European Court of Justice determined that anyone can ask for anything to be removed by the search engines if the search results are ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.’ It offered no tests or procedural guidelines whatsoever.
The ruling is only applicable in the European Union, not in the United States or other regions. However, the EU includes 28 countries and around 500 million users, so this is a fairly big deal.
The law doesn’t require publishers to remove the content itself, but forces Google and other search engines to remove links.
Why Remove Listings?
This isn’t the first law of its kind. A California law known as the ‘Eraser Bill’ was passed several years ago that allowed teens to erase potentially harmful information about them from the internet. The idea is that we all do stupid things when we’re young, and like our juvenile criminal record, you should be able to wipe your history clean when you reach adulthood.
But this law is unique in that it doesn’t specify exactly why you’d want to remove listings about yourself. Reports abound on the internet of people from all walks of life trying to take advantage of the law. An article on MarketingLand describes examples that include a politician who did something unethical, a man convicted of child pornography, an actor who had an affair and an attempted murderer.
An Unenforceable Law?
But as the law says, you can petition to have something removed but there is no guarantee. The ruling stipulates that there are exceptions, such as freedom of expression, things in the public interest, information related to public health, and postings that may be used for ‘historical, statistical and scientific research purposes.’
There has been speculation that there’s no possible way the search engines could be ready for the flood of requests for removal. Pundits say Google would need an army of specialists in each European language to keep up and review everything. The law may not be as effective or meaningful as we think.
There have always been ways to deal with negative postings on Google. First, if a posting is actually untrue or slanderous, you can have it removed through a DMCA request. The same goes for copyrighted information, such as your content that someone else has ripped off. There’s also reputation management, which if done effectively, can bury negative results and replace them with positive ones.