In thi article Igniyte discusses unfavourable content online and the routes where it may be possible to remove content from Google search.
The Significance of Google Search Results
It is importance to maintain a positive presence online for both as an individual, business or corporation and this is linked to Google search. Google commands a staggering 83.5% market share in the desktop search engine race and 95% in the mobile market. A Google search serves as a powerful indication of one’s personal identity and business standing. The initial URLs seen on the first page of Google are prime real estate and can mould and define an individual or business’s reputation, whether desired or not.
The Consequences of Negative Content
The presence of negative content within Google search results can have far-reaching and detrimental consequences on an individual’s or business’s long-term reputation.
Notably, statistics indicate that a staggering 30% of businesses attribute damage to their reputation and future prospects to the existence of negative URLs (or web links) which can be negative news websites, forums, blogs, videos, images. and social media It is important to understand that the longer undesirable information persists online, the greater the potential for reputational harm.
Navigating the Complexity of Content Removal
Removing outdated or unwanted content from Google can be complex. There is no delete button and just because you do not like online content, or it is damaging does not mean it can be removed. Google has established specific criteria that must be met for a URL or web link to be considered eligible for removal. Nonetheless, there exist circumstances under which Google may respond favourably to requests for the removal of some defamatory or negative content.
Grounds for Content Removal Accepted by Google
There are legal grounds that may warrant the removal of specific details from websites. A removal request typically relates to URLs where:
Information poses financial harm or the risk of identity theft: The presence of such content in search results contravenes Google’s service agreement. Google is inclined to remove credit card numbers, bank account details, signatures, or similar information from websites or web pages.
Sexually explicit content: If sexually explicit or adult content appears on a URL, site, or page within search results without consent, Google will entertain removal requests. Criteria for such requests include the subject’s nudity or involvement in a sexual act on a webpage or adult content site, an absence of consent, the subject’s underage status, and the content’s public availability.
Article 17 – The ‘right to be forgotten’ (EU only): This provision allows individuals to request the removal of outdated media, videos, pictures, or social media content from search results within the European Union.
Online Defamation and Remedial Measures
The current digital landscape which everyone has access to has increased the potential for defamatory or libelous statements, particularly on social media platforms. Instances necessitating legal intervention to address disputes arising from defamatory content are on the increase. But what qualifies as defamatory content, and under what conditions might a court order be warranted?
Content on a website that falsely portrays an individual and is authored by a third party may be considered defamatory. However, the mere expression of an opinion on a webpage does not automatically merit a removal request. Rather, the content in question must be deemed to inflict serious harm upon the subject, resulting in significant reputational damage. If a user believes that this is the case, they may have grounds to request its removal or replacement with an updated version.
Content Removal Rights in the EU and UK
Individuals who encounter negative or inaccurate content via Google search within the European Union are entitled to certain rights governed by GDPR regulations. The UK has introduced legislation post-Brexit, which adheres to the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ framework. Nonetheless, the process is not as straightforward as submitting a removal request to the search engine e.g. Google (it is worth noting Bing and other search engines have similar processes in place). To be successful one or more conditions must be met, which include outdated content, the withdrawal of consent, the absence of legitimate data retention reasons, unauthorized data processing, or marketing usage by the data controller.
Google’s Compliance with Removal Requests
The right for individuals to demand the exclusion of specific URLs from search results has continued to generate debate. Over time, Google has received an excess of one million requests for URL or page removal from search results. It is noteworthy that Google has deemed slightly less than half of these requests deserving of URL removal.
Rapidly removing content from a webpage or Google search is not usually feasible. In practice, the removal process typically spans from two to six months, as observed through firsthand experience. Igniyte specialise in challenging, removing and supressing negative Goolgle search results.
Managing Director at Igniyte – The Reputation Experts
Roz is an industry spokesperson on all areas of online reputation management and our resident digital media expert. She regularly writes about reputation management research, online reputation risk and industry best practice.