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When PR backfires: Google 'forgets' BBC TV man's banker blog post

Robert Peston in right to be forgotten search takedown whodunnit

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Comment On Wednesday, Google emailed the BBC to say it had removed from its search results a blog post written by TV journalist Robert Peston about Merrill Lynch boss Stan O'Neal.

Was this a PR stunt to highlight the "unfairness" of the EU ruling on the right to be forgotten? We don't know – but whether it was or not, it has backfired on the data-slurping American ad giant.

If the intention was for Peston to go ballistic and raise the cry "the internet is broken!" then someone is out of luck. The BBC man duly published a new post about the delisting of the old 2007 piece about O'Neal – and questioned why Google itself decided to break the internet.

"Its implementation of [the EU ruling] looks odd, perhaps clumsy," wrote Peston. While nobody knows for sure who submitted the takedown request, Peston speculates that it may have been done by a commenter rather than O'Neal himself.

In fact, Google isn't obliged to act upon a single request for removal - it can bounce every single one up to the national data protection authority in each EU member state.

The Court of Justice of the European Union said in its original ruling that courts will ultimately arbitrate on each request - and their decision must balance freedom of expression rights, as well as privacy rights. However, were it to bend to every request, no matter how trivial, Google would be ignoring this route and instead offering comfort to every celebrity, criminal and paedophile who feels that having the world Google their name may embarrass them.

Google is, in effect, complaining that "the internet is broken" - but Mummy those nasty European judges made it do that.

Legal sources familiar with Google's backroom campaign to get the law changed in Europe tell us it knows it has "zero chance" - but since sympathy for the corporation is in short supply these days, it might well milk this for all it's worth. ®

Bootnote

Google claimed yesterday it had received 50,000 removal requests in Europe as a result of the CJEU ruling. Which is very interesting, as that's only 9,000 higher than the figures Larry Page gave to the FT a month ago.

Bear in mind that the European Union is home to over half a billion citizens - meaning fewer than 0.01 per cent of them have complained.

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