Google: We Weren't Over-Zealous in Merrill Lynch Link Removal

The link was actually taken down because of someone who left a comment

Google has denied that it has been trying to be over-zealous in its efforts to comply with the “right to be forgotten” ruling in the European Union. The question came after Google removed several links to media reports on several sensitive topics.

These past few days, Google has started to remove links to various articles after it was asked to do so by users who submitted a “right to be forgotten” request. At the same time, it has begun to display a notification on the search results pages in the European Union that used to contain those links, and to notify the affected websites.

Soon after, plenty of websites around the world started to make these notifications public. Our very own Autoevolution site received one, but so had the likes of the Guardian, the Daily Mail and BBC.

BBC’s Robert Peston took things a bit personal and wondered in a piece why was Google trying to cast him into oblivion after the publication was told that an article of his had become hidden for the Europeans. The piece was about Merrill Lynch’s boss, who left the bank with hundreds of millions of dollars in payment as the investment bank was suffocating under the weight of billions of dollars in losses due to reckless investments.

Google’s decision to “OK” the removing of the link to this article has already been criticized by the spokesperson of Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission, who said that it was “not a good judgment.”

It wasn’t long before Google was accused of press censorship, even though it was simply abiding by the requests made by users, just as the European Court of Justice had ordered.

Over on BBC’s Radio 4, Peter Barron, Google’s chief of communications for the area, admitted to the listeners that Google didn’t really like the ruling. “The European Court of Justice ruling was not something that we welcomed or wanted. But it is now the law within Europe, and we’re obliged to comply with that law,” he said in one of the first times Google has opened up about the move.

When asked whether Google was being deliberately over-zealous with its approach, Barron denied, saying that they aim to deal with it as responsibly as possible.

“As you mentioned, we’ve had more than 70,000 requests so far, and that’s a huge task. In most cases, we’ve had about four web pages per request. That’s something like 250,000 requests to remove content. It’s a very big process, it’s a learning process for us, we’re listening to the feedback, and we’re working our way through that,” Barron said.

He also revealed that the Merrill Lynch link wasn’t removed because Stan O’Neal, the former boss of the investment bank, demanded it, as it continues to show up when you search for his name or the popular phrase attached to it, “Merrill Lynch Banker.” In fact, it seems, the entire thing was taken down because a commenter didn’t want to have an embarrassing message attached to his name.

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