Yesterday, ConservativeHome received an email from Google. It began like this:
‘Due to a request under data protection law in Europe, Google can no longer show one or more pages from your site in Google Search results. This only affects responses to some search queries for names or other personal identifiers that might appear on your pages.’
In short, it was serving us notice that one of our articles has been affected by the EU’s so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ – a measure by which anyone has the right to force Google to hide pages that mention their name from appearing when someone searches for that person.
The page affected is this article: Pinning Down Farage: What is UKIP’s defence policy – and how would they use the Armed Forces?. Someone named in that piece, or possibly in the comments, has acted to ensure that if you or anyone else in the EU Googles their name, the page won’t come up.
In the peculiar world of Brussels’ internet regulation, there are some essential things that we won’t be told about this step. For a start, they don’t inform affected websites of the name of the person who has filed for the ‘right to be forgotten’. As a result, we also don’t know on which Google searches the article will now no longer appear. Nor is there any opportunity for us to make a correction, should we wish to - and we have received no direct complaint to us about the page in the 13 months since it was published. How on earth is a website meant to respond to such a cryptic ruling?
This is a good example of how the EU’s meddling in the workings of the internet cramps good journalism and free expression. The page still exists, but if you search for a particular person featured upon it you will now be denied the opportunity to access the information. Who, how and why, no-one is allowed to know.