BBC Publishes 'Right to be Forgotten' Archive

John Lister's picture

British news agency BBC has published a list of its articles which are no longer linked to through Google, due to a controversial European law. The move means that the people who requested the pages be removed may have actually made things worse.

The situation involves the "right to be forgotten", a policy introduced last year by the European Court of Justice. It rules on those laws that apply across the 26 countries that are part of the European Union.

The policy applies in cases where people want pages with embarrassing, outdated or privacy-threatening information about them removed from the web. In many cases, those pages are perfectly legal to have online, especially for archiving purposes.

Search Engines Make Final Call

Under the policy, people must first ask websites hosting the article to take the page down. If a satisfactory response is not met, they can ask search engines such as Google to remove links to the page. It's up to the search engine to decide how to respond.

Although the page itself remains online, it can be harder to find if removed from search engines. At the moment, search engines only remove search result pages shown to European users, though some officials want the deletion to apply worldwide. Also, the pages are only "delisted" when users search for the specific name in question, but can still show up for other searches.

So far Google has rejected most claims. For the most part it removes links in cases that genuinely compromise privacy, or which reference negative details from many years ago. It usually refuses to delete links to pages detailing serious criminal actions or information involving public figures.

BBC Highlights 'Delisted' Pages

While Google details the number of pages it has delisted in this way, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has gone a step further. It has tracked the delisted search engine pages from its site, and in return, published a full list of delisted articles so that access to the information is still available to the public. It plans to update the list monthly to highlight the latest changes. (Source:

It says this is "primarily as a contribution to public policy. [BBC thinks] it is important that those with an interest in the 'right to be forgotten' can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. [BBC Hopes] it will contribute to the debate about this issue."

Highlighting Removed Articles Likened to 'Streisand Effect'

The relisting of the removed articles will likely draw more attention to the articles in question - meaning attempts to get the pages hidden is expected to backfire. It's another example of the Streisand effect, named after an incident where Barbara Streisand's attempts to get aerial photographs of her house taken off a public website led to heavy publicity, which then prompted more than 400,000 people to view the photos. (Source:

The BBC stresses that it doesn't get details of who made the relevant complaints to Google. It says readers should thus not assume that it was the subject of the articles in question that tried to get them made less visible.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think the "right to be forgotten" policy is a reasonable balance between free speech and privacy? Is the BBC right to draw attention to the delisted stories in this way? Does the list undermine the policy and, if so, is that a good thing?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.3 (3 votes)


rwells78's picture

Bravo to the BBC for standing up to this nonsense!