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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