In 2014 the European Union (EU) ruled that people had the “Right to be Forgotten” which gives people the right to ask Google to remove search engine entries related to them. The BBC has decided to publish a list of the stories deleted from search engine results. The stories are still available on the BBC site but without inclusion in Google it’s unlikely users will find them. In response Neil McIntosh, Managing Editor. is posting a list of stories removed from Google’s search results in a BBC blog post. The list includes stories from July 2014 to present.
In describing the purpose of listing the posts deleted from Google’s search results Mr. McIntosh states “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.”. The BBC post also includes a comment from Google to clarify that the stories in question are only removed from search results for queries on certain names.
Mr. McIntosh mentions that the list is published to contribute to the public debate. I agree that the public should have access to see which articles are being blocked to ascertain whether or not the reasons are valid. This isn’t the fault of Google as they have stood up against censorship time and time again and are just adhering to the law. Rather the list gives BBC contributors and their readers a central point to access the articles deleted from the search engine results. It will be interesting to see how the list drives public debate on the issue of censoring search results. Neil ends the blog post by pointing out that the list does not include the name of the person who asked for the content to be delisted from Google and mentions that the request may not have originated from the subject of the story.
In a related post published last year David Jordan, BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, talks about people in their news reports wanting the news related to them erased from the BBC site. He describes some of the reasons for wanting news reports removed “Sometimes, people say our reports are inaccurate or unfair, or they regret the private information they put into the public domain about a medical condition; their marital status or financial affairs. Others are embarrassed by views they expressed which they no longer hold or are no longer compatible with their lives. Some people tell us the presence of our reports are affecting their relationships with their families or hindering their job search: that they’ve now rebuilt their lives; beaten their addiction or are no longer homeless”.
Mr. Jordan goes on to outline the BBC’s policy on removing content and states “BBC iPlayer is a record of broadcast history and the BBC’s online archive is a matter of historic public record and any changes to them may reduce transparency and trust with our users and risk altering history. Our new policy will help us to preserve the public record in as complete a state as possible”.You can visit the BBC’s article for the list of posts removed from the search engine results related to the queries of specific names. They currently have the deleted posts from July 2014 through May of this year. They will likely add June to the list soon.