back to article Info Commissioner tears into Google's 'call us journalists' trial defence

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has declared war on Google, urging the High Court to throw out the ad biz's defences in the Right To Be Forgotten trial because they are "impermissibly broad". "If Google were right in its approach to the concept of 'journalism', that would yield a result whereby the commissioner …

  1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Quite right too.

    Google doesn't do journalism. They are a parasite that leeches off of the work of proper journalists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quite right too.

      Along with the work of improper journalists.

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Quite right too.

      You may as well replace the words "proper journalists" with just "others".

      1. Michael Thibault

        Re: Quite right too.

        Yes, well, given that the majority of humans carry a television studio in their hip pocket and an unending supply of opinions in their head -- "others" it is.

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: Quite right too.

          Allow me to extend the sentence to make it a little clearer:

          You may as well replace the words "proper journalists" with just "others" - because it's not just in the area of journalism they leech off other people's work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is this? The Information Commissioner growing some teeth?

    About time!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is this? The Information Commissioner growing some teeth?

      Chocolate Teeth ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is this? The Information Commissioner growing some teeth?

      On the assumption that this one is not going to go Google's way, I'm looking forward to the Judge's verdict. Will it be as forthright as the one delivered by the Judge in the case concerning Uber and their status as an employer? Will this Judge take their cue from this submission? I do hope so.

      In general I think the US tech companies should wise up and realise that things tend not to work in a USA way outside of the USA. The need to wise up is purely economic; there's only 300million USAians, there's 6billion people in the rest of the world with a large amount of money and significantly different views on the limits on "free speech" to that commonly held in the USA. Google, Facebook, etc. are in danger of being legislated out of existence outside of the USA (at least in their present form). It might take a while, but when it does happen we'll be looking back at these few years as being the time they should have changed their business models.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems to me that the Right To Be Forgotten

    Is something purposefully invented for, and only available to, those who are rich & powerful enough to use their connections in the Establishment to coerce the suppression of their previous (alleged) misdeeds (until they are legally dead).

    1. AndyS

      Re: Seems to me that the Right To Be Forgotten

      Your point would be valid if it were necessary to take Google to court. The whole point is that it should not be - a simple request should allow you to access this. That's what the court cases are about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seems to me that the Right To Be Forgotten

        Yes but what happens when google says no? It's not exactly cheap taking them to court.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Seems to me that the Right To Be Forgotten

          That's why we have a regulator.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Seems to me that the Right To Be Forgotten

            That's why we have a regulator.

            Spoken like only someone who has never had to refer a matter to the ICO could. The regulator is asleep, if not dead, at the wheel. I've raised some very serious concerns to them, and while they eventually force the companes concerned to comply with the law, they refuse point blank to bring prosecutions or level fines. The ICO is, frankly, a disgrace that is not fit for purpose.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone commented on the other thread ...

    Because Google already manipulate search results*, they lose all protection of being a conduit.

    *Badly, as it happens.

  5. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Key Point

    Chocolate Factory has a major problem claiming journalism - no one is doing basic journalism with the search as it is done algorithmically. The case hinges on whether a random search is basic journalism requiring reasonable judgement about the reliability of the information, relevance, importance, etc to the final result. Also, most searches are not journalists looking for information for a news article but someone just being curious.

    1. Donn Bly

      Re: Key Point

      While I agree that Google isn't doing journalism -- it has just as much journalistic integrity as the articles written by humans as it indexes -- which are primarily regurgitations of an online search with unverified claims and unsubstantiated conclusions.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Key Point

      "The case hinges on whether a random search is basic journalism requiring reasonable judgement about the reliability of the information, relevance, importance, etc to the final result."

      It should do, as this is a sensible description. But the UK Courts have already established that journalism may mean distribution of documents written by others, and this is what Google is arguing it does.

    3. croxed

      Re: Key Point

      But if they are journalists, won't they have to abide by a whole host of other journalistic rules, such as not publishing anything libellous or defamatory etc. This means that they would no longer claim to simply be a platform. Seems to me they want to have their chocolate bar and eat it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Libel

    I guess if Google is a newspaper it will happily cover the libel costs for its output like a normal paper?

    1. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Libel

      Excellent point And now that they have publicly stated, on the record, that all content they deliver IS journalism, presumably they ARE now legally responsible for any libellous statements in that content and will have to cover all libel costs resulting from it : their hapiness or otherwise about the situation being completely irrelevant to the courts.

  7. joekhul

    RegTards love Big Gov't

    Jeeshus. Never seen anything as ridiculous as the EU and RegTards. No wonder the UK is in massive decline.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RegTards love Big Gov't

      Obvious troll is obvious.

  8. standardraise

    Of course

    Google aren't journalists - they are a clickbait search engine that bolster's people's mistakes and become gatekeepers for rehabilitation.

    'Sorry, our algo says you were drunk 27 years ago and therefore your career is over. NEXT!'

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    A Pity

    There are no contenders (as far as I am aware) who could push Google out of the top spot.

    Increasingly their search results appear to be strongly biased both commercially and politically.

    Google would/could have far more impact on an election result than a few Russian or other trolls, simply by massaging search results.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Both sides are wrong here

    The people who have a justifiable need to be forgotten are ones who were unjustly accused. For example, someone might have been arrested for downloading child porn, but what actually happened was the person's router had no password and allowed his pervert neighbor to steal wireless service and download child porn. The person was stupid and incompetent, but not a pervert. But psychopaths such as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables must not be given the right to be forgotten.

    Google is not a journalist. Its infamous episode of interfering with search results for "islam is" proves that it has a political agenda and must be regulated. https://www.wired.com/2010/01/google-islam-censorship/

    1. Steve Browne

      Re: Both sides are wrong here

      Erm, Thompson and Venables WERE given the right to be forgotten by the trial judge, when he placed a lifetime injunction on their new identities being revealed.

      1. nijam

        Re: Both sides are wrong here

        > Thompson and Venables WERE given the right to be forgotten by the trial judge...

        ...which makes a mockery of the system.

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Both sides are wrong here

        Erm, Thompson and Venables WERE given the right to be forgotten by the trial judge, when he placed a lifetime injunction on their new identities being revealed.

        Umm no - protecting their new identities was not giving them the right to be forgotten. IMHO a precautionary measure by the courts to prevent violence on their person. Remember the 'paediatrician' hounded from her home by retards who could not spell (well in the UK anyway)?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Both sides are wrong here

        They were given anonymity and not RtbF.

  12. Cynical Pie

    Mountain View we have a problem...

    The problem being Google claim not be journalists when they are asked to monitor/control the output of fake news so they are playing both sides.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are allowed to watch you, but you aren't allowed to watch them.

    A lot of people appear to be in support of the regulator in this instance, possibly in part due to the fact that Google are bastards, but has no one asked exactly *who* it is who is suing for their right to be forgotten? I do not support Google, but what is so special about this case?

    This avenue is not available for common people: the person suing isn't Joe Bloggs on legal aid - the barrister (Hugh Tomlinson, google it) for the person referred to as "NT1" is a private barrister specialising in helping high profile people remain secret, and was recently hired to block publication of papers related to the "paradise papers" leak.

    In short, he is a specialist at preventing the spread of information. Obviously this is what you need when facing Google in the high court, but isn't anyone asking why the regulator only steps in when one of the most expensive barristers in their field has a high profile case in the high court?

    Who in this country has been fortunate enough to receive such a powerful personalised response like this from the Information Commissioner during the course of their court case? If one wanted to be cynical, one could say that the regulations are not there to protect the plebs, they are there to protect the elites. Almost no one has the ability to take a case like this to the high court, and in the end the precedents that are being set will be made available to the same elite groups who have the most to gain from remaining hidden; powerful people who want to remain hidden will be able to remain hidden.

    The "nothing to hide" argument is presented to us as being a fact of life in the most heavily surveilled country on the planet, but again - if one wanted to be cynical, one could say that it seems that this only applies to one portion of the population. Google is an easy target, but remember Google is also one of the only ways that the common man is able to keep tabs on people who watch him who would otherwise be hidden. Massive surveillance networks allow the government and corporations (like Google, and Facebook) to keep tabs on you 24/7 - but don't be fooled into believing that just because one of these elites is battling against another of these elites that it has anything to do with you and your rights.

  14. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    This is a very interesting and important point AC, but by "this avenue is not available for common people" I presume you mean the High Court not the ICO process, which is free to use.

    RTBF is a tool for people who are not famous, are not public figures, and can't afford Hugh Tomlinson QC.

  15. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Moreover, there seems to be a bit of "this guy is obviously rich and did something bad, why should he be able to buy justice". The undertone being that he shouldn't be allowed this right.

    So this comes under the "no rights for people we don't think deserve them" banner. But that's the slippery slope to no-one having rights - because once you go down the route of deciding who should and shouldn't have rights, you are well on the way to the sort of thing that happened in Germany in the 1930s and many other things.

    THE LAW in this country says that his conviction is spent and he has the right (as does anyone else) to have the conviction disregarded in future (for most purposes) - this case is about whether Google is bypassing that right by prominently putting results pointing to his convictions as the first results in a search on his name.

    As others have already said, that right also allows someone who made an indiscretion during their youth to get over it and then continue with a normal life. Should shoplifting as a teenager (or a myriad of other things that young people do in their immaturity) permanently bar you from future employment ? IMO quite reasonably we do not - after some time period, and doing whatever punishment the courts decide is reasonable, the issue can be put away and the person get on with a normal life.

    But once you start suggesting that this should selectively apply to "people we approve of", or "people without lots of money", or any other categorisation - then off we go down the route of pastor Martin Niemöller's poem ...

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