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Do We Really Want Google To Be The Arbiter Of Public Interest?

delete‘To Google’ has become the method by which nearly all of us (companies included) acquire new information – whether that’s news, reviews, opinion or reports. A constantly evolving algorithm, now assumes the role once taken by our daily newspaper. This algorithm decides what we should be presented with and what should be consigned to page 36 of the search results.

Google has always organised and prioritised the world’s information, holding huge sway over what the lazy researcher will discover and be influenced by first. Now with the latest ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten’ – the European court ruling that says individuals have a right to demand the erasure of links to information about them that is old or irrelevant – it also needs to judge what people have a right to know. Search companies are wrestling with how to handle European requests to delete content from search engines. Since this ruling much has been stated about the potential abuse of this ‘right’ by ill reputed companies, tyrannical regimes, or individuals with questionable pasts.

Historically the gatekeepers of ‘public interest’ have been the media. The crucial difference between Google and those organisations is that the press has been regulated to ensure that ‘public interest’ is in fact in the public interest. Google already has huge sway over what information we are presented with first and can source online and as such has immense power over public opinion. Now it not only has sway over what is presented first, but what is presented at all.

Google’s motto, ‘Don’t be evil’, is probably one of the most famous corporate adages of the modern era. Given the recent speculation around how the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling could impact public opinion, as well as the company’s recent acquisition, it seems Google may have a challenging time ahead to uphold this mission.

This post was written by Rebecca Ball, Account Manager, LEWIS PR

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