Ever since Google announced that it’s complying with the European Commission’s “right to be forgotten” ruling, it’s been inundated with requests to take down all sorts of search results. Many of those sought to bury negative reviews or write-ups, but in this particular case, the search result Google took down was neither negative nor damaging. In fact, it used to lead to a five-year-old article published on Worcester News, which called the piece’s subject “excellent” and “very talented.” That’s right, you can apparently ask Google to remove anything from its results pages in the European Union, even if it’s not dangerous or offensive… and maybe even if it’s helpful to some people.
The Worcester News has been the victim of one of the more bizarre examples of the European court’s so-called “right to be forgotten” ruling. The paper was told by Google that it was removing from its search archive an article in praise of a young artist. Yes, you read that correctly. A positive story published five years ago about Dan Roach, who was then on the verge of gaining a degree in fine art, had to be taken down. Although Google does not say who complained, the paper’s editor, Peter John, is confident that Roach himself made the request because he had previously approached the News to remove the piece from its website. Evidently, Roach is now a professional artist and, in the belief that he is now a much better painter than he was in 2009, he thinks the painting shown in the picture accompanying the article might damage his artistic reputation. John calls the take-down “the most absurd and silly piece of censorship” since Google was required to enact the court’s decision. He says: “An artist wanting to remove part of his back catalogue did not strike us as the sort of principle that the European court of justice had in mind when it came up with the right to be forgotten ruling.