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Google unsure when updated statistics on 'delist' requests from State bodies will be published

Requests to remove content from search results can be made under ‘right to be forgotten’ regulations.

Google's HQ in Dublin
Google's HQ in Dublin
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

GOOGLE IS UNABLE to confirm when it will publish updated statistics about requests by State bodies and government officials to delist content from its search service.

Details from the search engine’s transparency report, which contains information about requests by the government to remove content from its service, are not available for a period stretching back to July 2018.

Content can be removed by the search engine under ‘right to be forgotten’ regulations, and the company has received 102 requests from State bodies and government officials relating to 334 links since 2009, including:

  • 68 relating to privacy and security;
  • 23 relating to defamation;
  • 2 relating to hate speech;
  • 2 relating copyright;
  • 1 relating to fraud;
  • 1 relating to breach of trademark;
  • 1 relating to bullying/harassment;
  • 1 relating to suicide promotion;
  • 1 relating to adult content;
  • 1 categorised as ‘other’. 

It has removed around 40% of these, but while 87 requests were made by the government and 15 were made by the Courts Service, Google was more likely to remove content at the request of the latter.

It is also unclear how many requests by State bodies to remove have been made in over a year, and a spokeswoman for the company said it did not know when such information would become available.

She said:

We don’t have anything further to share on this. There’s a lag time between when we compile and publish the statistics, but I am not sure when the latest set will be public. 

Google has also provided three examples of requests by State bodies or employees to remove content from its search results as part of the Transparency Report.

In 2014, a politician asked Google to remove links to reputable news articles about a convicted murderer of the same name, after the politician alleged the pieces were defamatory. Google refused the request.

The previous year, an unnamed Government official sought the removal of results relating to “a State-run newspaper article that reported on the official being charged in a US court for battery”. The request was also refused by Google.

However, another request which came from the Courts Service was accepted by Google.

In 2017, the service sought the removal of links to “inaccurate criticism of a judge’s exercise of authority”, and the search engine delisted two URLs from its Irish search service as a result.

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