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Spanish court orders Google to editorialize search results, put man’s acquittal story in first place

The ruling is unprecedented.
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Google’s war of attrition with European courts, lawmakers and publishers has seen many battles and many highs and lows, among them the 2014 ruling of the European Court of Justice that individuals have “the right to be forgotten.”

The case, Google v. Spain, ended in the top European court deciding that search engines like Google whose business is based on collection of personal information should, if requested, remove links to personal information that is no longer relevant.

However, media outlets who published these articles appearing as links in Google search would not have to remove them, according to the ruling.

The decision inevitably caused controversy and debates, and was criticized by Google. The tech giant has also gone to court to appeal some subsequent orders to delete links, and in one such recent case managed to get a partial victory.

The Japan Times reports that a national court in Spain announced on Friday that when it comes to articles about a man accused of sexual abuse, freedom of expression was more important than protection of personal data.

The ruling came on Google’s appeal against Spanish Data Protection Agency’s order to erase eight links to articles about the unnamed man – a psychologist who was put on trial on charges of sexual abuse and eventually acquitted.

The case didn’t seem to be trivial in any way: had the man been found guilty on the three counts contained in the indictment, he could have been sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Consequently, when his name is googled, articles about the case come up as top results.

The psychologist wanted a total of ten links removed, while the Spanish Data Protection Agency in 2017 told Google to delete eight, saying that the articles are no longer relevant – a condition from “the right to be forgotten” ruling.

But Google appealed on grounds of public interest and freedom of speech, arguing also that the articles were not obsolete.

However, the Spanish court did not grant Google’s appeal in full, because while the company will be able to continue to display the eight contested links, it will have to “editorialize” its search results so that articles about the man’s acquittal show up at the top of the search page.

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