|"In response to a legal requested submitted to Google,|
we have removed 1 result(s) from this page."
Notice on Google.co.uk this morning
For very obvious reasons in the current climate I will not say more about the website in question than I need in order to report the significance. The website makes several serious allegations about UK politicians relating to events over a decade ago.
For full clarity there is no evidence to suggest the removal has anything to do with Lord McAlpine or his legal team, as the website mentions several other politicians.
To those not familiar with Google's stance on free speech this might not be surprising, given the recent furore over false identification.
False allegations of the most serious nature have elicited an emotional response - from both sides of the debate.
Even some free speech advocates are wrestling right now with the question of whether some "regulation" (for want of a better word) might be necessary, whilst others are arguing that cover-ups will continue whilst the establishment continues to maintain a grip on communications.
That said, I have it on extremely good authority from multiple high level sources within Google that the company does not take down defamatory content lightly.
"Normally, in the UK, that would require a court order" said one of my contacts.
This raises the likelihood that there is at least one court injunction in place preventing allegations being made about one or more of the people mentioned on the website in question.
From Google's own Transparency Report, over 80% of UK take-downs for defamation in the last 2 years stemmed from a court order, the rest from "Executive, Police, etc":
|Google UK take-downs requests by category|
Source: Google's Transparency Report (UK)
The above stats are for requests, not take-downs. Similar statistics are not available filtered by compliance. Google's take-down ratio is around 61% as of this summer so it's highly likely the ratio of court orders to police, etc requests for content actually taken down is higher than 80%.
Google have so far taken a firm line with requests from UK police in the absence of a court order, highlighting (under United Kingdom section):
"We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 14 search results for linking to sites that criticise the police and claim individuals were involved in obscuring crimes. We did not remove content in response to this request. In addition, we received a request from another local law enforcement agency to remove a YouTube video for criticising the agency of racism. We did not remove content in response to this request.
The number of content removal requests we received increased by 98% compared to the previous reporting period."In any case we may soon be able to view the actual order at some point due to Google's participation in the Chilling Effects project.