When a European court ruled against Google in May, forcing Google to remove search results at the request of users, some feared the ruling would lead to censorship.
That fear is becoming reality.
In 2007, BBC journalist Robert Peston wrote an article describing the ousting of Merrill Lynch’s CEO Stan O’Neal. While the article does not demonize O’Neal, it acknowledges O’Neal’s departure as a direct result of “colossal losses” taken by the investment bank in 2007. Not long afterward, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch during the 2008 financial crisis.
“Merrill’s board, in negotiating O’Neal’s departure, has simply been trying to preserve the integrity of a giant, money-making collective,” Peston wrote in 2007.
Now, under the “right to be forgotten,” Peston’s article has been removed from European Google search results. At first, Peston thought perhaps O’Neal had requested the article be removed, but then realized the article was still available in U.S. searches.
“My blog remains findable when you search Stan O’Neal. So I am beginning to wonder whether it really was him who requested to be forgotten,” Peston said on July 2 in a blog post. “The implication is that oblivion was requested not by anyone who appears in the blog itself (O’Neal is the only person I mention in my column) but by someone named in the comments written by readers underneath the blog.”
The whole affair is very suspicious — it doesn’t make sense for O’Neal to try and “save face,” since the article isn’t harsh and doesn’t implicate O’Neal in any wrongdoing. Peston’s 2007 article predicts the future financial crisis, but doesn’t point any fingers.
If O’Neal didn’t ask for the article to be removed, then who did?
“I asked Google if I can appeal against the casting of my article into the oblivion of unsearchable Internet data,” Peston said. “Google won’t tell me, one way or another. It is all a bit odd.”