Google ordered by EU court to remove search results if proven false

Google received bad news from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Thursday which ordered that the internet giant has to remove information from search results if it can be proven it is demonstrably false.

(Video Credit: Reuters)

The case came to light after Google refused the request of two executives from a group of investment companies who asked that the company remove results connecting them to articles that criticized the group, as well as thumbnail photos of them. The company rejected the requests, saying it did not know whether the information in the articles was accurate or not.

Google claims the information and photos in question have been offline for some time.

A German court subsequently sought advice from the CJEU concerning the line between the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression and information.

“The operator of a search engine must de-reference information found in the referenced content where the person requesting de-referencing proves that such information is manifestly inaccurate,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said.

The court also stated that individuals who want to have information removed from search results should only be required to provide evidence they could reasonably be expected to produce.

“The data subject’s rights to protection of private life and protection of personal data override, as a general rule, the legitimate interest of Internet users who may be interested in accessing the information in question,” the court ruled, according to Euronews.

“That balance may, however, depend on the relevant circumstances of each case, in particular on the nature of that information and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information,” it added.

“However, the right to freedom of expression and information cannot be taken into account where, at the very least, a part – which is not of minor importance – of the information found in the referenced content proves to be inaccurate,” the court added.

This EU ruling comes eight years after the very same court handed down the landmark ruling on the “right to be forgotten,” which asserts that people have the right to ask companies such as Google to remove their personal information if it is deemed inaccurate or irrelevant. In effect, it mandates the removal of digital traces from the internet.

Free speech advocates and supporters of privacy rights have locked horns over the issue in recent years.

The judgment precedes the landmark EU privacy rules that went into effect in 2018 and states that the right to be forgotten is excluded where the processing of personal data is necessary for the exercise of the right to access information.

“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” a Google spokesperson asserted in a statement that was provided by Reuters.

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