SEO | July 8, 2014

The EU’s Right to be Forgotten and Reputation Management

The EU’s new ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling has been all over the news recently.

But what exactly is it? How does it affect online reputation management? Is there hope for people whose reputations suffer as a result of incorrect information online? Let’s take a look.

What is ‘the right to be forgotten’?

Like an elephant, the internet never forgets. Those mistakes you made years and years ago are far too easily immortalised in ink and brought up in every Google result. Often this information isn’t always accurate and up-to-date, which can be extremely damaging to reputations.

This new law gives people the ability to have certain information suppressed by removing it from search engine results.

Direct links to these pages will still work and the page will still continue to function as normal, but Google will simply not rank it. This makes it much easier for people who hide irrelevant information about themselves online.

What does this mean for reputation management?

This new feature is potentially a dream come true for reputation management cases, although it needs to be treated very carefully.

Previously, if you had a negative article coming up in the search terms, removing it was nearly impossible. Reputation management usually consisted of rebutting any controversial claims with good online PR and promoting relevant pages. Now it can be much simpler. Individuals can ‘apply’ for the removal of older, outdated material to Google.

It will not be possible to have newly published material been given the ‘right to be forgotten’ as it will still be deemed relevant. That means that you still need to stay on top of the material published about you and use clever PR tactics to keep positive results on top.

Each case dealt with personally

Having negative results removed from Google isn’t as simple as clicking to remove. That would be considered by many to be censorship and is something that goes completely against the freedom of the internet.

Every URL needs to be individually brought to Google’s attention with a reasonable case showing reasons why the content should be removed. Each case will then be assessed by a Google employee and where applicable the URL will be discredited, stopping it from showing up in search results.

When the right to be forgotten was first introduced there were over 41,000 removal requests in just four days. This number now reaches well into the hundreds of thousands and is likely to hit a million before the year is out. How many links will actually be deleted is unknown as of yet, but it will be interesting to see if the stats ever come to light.

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