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No point rewriting history says editor as Google revolt grows

A weekly group editor has republished a story deleted from Google’s search listings as the revolt over the “right to be forgotten” grows.

The search engine giant has received hundreds of requests to unindex archived newspaper stories following a recent European Court ruling.

The court gave people the right to request the removal of “irrelevant” or “out of date” stories from search listings.

But local newspaper editors are determined to resist what they see as “censorship” by publishing new stories reporting the attempts to unindex the originals.

Last week, the Oxford Mail published a report about the removal of a story about an archaeology specialist convicted in 2006 of trying to steal £200 worth of Christmas presents from Boots.

Its new story both named the convicted man and linked to its original 2006 story about his case.

In the latest example, fellow Newsquest title the Surrey Comet has republished on its front page a 2010 report about a local college losing £443,000 on a disastrous fund-raising concert and Sandown Park.

It found its original story had been deleted from search results although it is not clear who requested the deletion and the college in question has denied any knowledge of it.

Group editor Andrew Parkes said it would be his policy to republish such stories in the hope that the people making the requests will realise it is pointless.

“Someone asks Google to unindex something which appears on our site, which means we then re-publish it on the front page and right at the top of the website. Surely people will realise there is no point trying to delete history,” he told HTFP.

“I think this has to be our policy. We would obviously judge each request on its own merits – for example, the request may not be made by the main subject of the story, it could be made by someone who simply left a comment at the time and no longer likes what they said.

“But we will continue to do everything we can to stop anyone seeking to ‘re-write history’.”

Andrew said the industry needed to keep the pressure on over the issue saying it raised a number of other questions.

“Currently, the thinking is that a criminal who doesn’t appreciate his previous convictions being searchable will do his best to get them removed. But it could go much further than this,” he said.

“My understanding is that anyone can appeal to Google about any story. So, what’s to stop a school applying to get a story about a rival school’s good Ofsted report unindexed? Could a restaurant seek to get a good review about a rival’s restaurant unindexed?

“Any individual/organisation could simply use this in an effort to get any positive coverage of their rivals unindexed.”

Writing about the Oxford Mail case on his blog, media commentator Roy Greenslade said it was clear that the request had rebounded because the 2006 story had received renewed publicity.

Commented Roy: “The right to be forgotten could well turn out to be the right to be remembered.”

Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill has since revealed that while the original 2006 story received only 28 page views, the current story has already received “2,000 and rising.”

Simon said last week that the “right to be forgotten” was no more than “an attempt to re-write history.”


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  • July 7, 2014 at 10:06 am

    We seem to have come an awful long way from the days when we complained that Google was making a parasitic living out of our content.

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  • July 7, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Delighted to hear our print media retaliating against these shadowy forces intent on airbrushing history. Same forces must realise now that their efforts are futile. What else can they do? Campaign for laws to remove stuff from archived newspapers? I think not.

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