Google is in the middle of an Inception-style moment. When the European Union ordered Google, Bing and Yahoo to offer the ability to request content removal from the search index, a lot of places wrote about the order. It was, after all, a strange requirement of a company whose whole business model revolves around knowning everything people want to know. Since then, many articles have been written about requests that have been made through the system
Now, the company is being ordered to forget about the order to forget. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office has ordered Google to remove links to articles about the "right to be forgotten" requests in Europe. They have been given 35 days to comply with this odd meta request, though it is not clear what the punishment might be for non-compliance.
The order comes in response to a previous request from someone who had what they called a "relatively minor offense" nearly 10 years ago. Google complied with the request, removing links to articles about the incident. However, sites wrote about the removal, because they were relevant to current events - namely the right to be forgotten law. Google refused to continue sensoring new content under the request, because of the fact that the content was in the public interest.
If Google complies with the order, it will essentially be accepting that the EU has the right to censor the content on the web on a very wide scale. This is not the first time that a government has ordered Google to highly censor their search results. In 2010, Google was ordered to censor a tremendous amount of content in China, which resulted in the company abandoning the country entirely, making way for Baidu to take the reigns in the country. UK Deputy Information Commission David Smith said,
The commission does not dispute that journalistic content relating to decisions to delist search results may be newsworthy and in the public interest. However, that interest can be adequately and properly met without a search made on the basis of the complainant's name providing links to articles which reveal information about the complainant's spent conviction.
So, the order wants to censor journalistic content because it contains someone's name in regards to a modern and lawful activity, required by the government. Censoring access to the free press is a major step in the direction of a totalitarian government, and Google has proven over the past few years that they do not want to be a part of that process. It will be interesting to see how Google responds to this order.