There are some new signs from Europe that the right to be forgotten is being applied directly against news websites – for example, the Italian court recently upheld a ruling an article in an online news archive expires after a period of 2 years. This is regarded as a significant departure from previous applications of the right, which have always distinguished between delisting search results and removing content at source. However, for some reason Roman court has blamed the source.
In one of the cases over the news article, the judges in Rome attached great importance to the availability of the archived article via Google Search, pointing out that online content needs treating differently because it is consultable simply by typing the name of the claimant into the search engine. At the same time, unlike their previous European counterparts, they failed to consider the alternative, saying that publishers of websites can indicate their wish the specific information to be wholly or partially excluded from search engines’ automatic indexes.
This approach caused the news publisher to thunder that Italian law does not understand technology or the Internet. As a result, the right to be forgotten now has a new meaning in the country: the right to remove inconvenient journalism from archives after 2 years, which effectively decimates online journalism. Indeed, such court ruling leaves Italian editors vulnerable to arguments that their product has already been published for long enough and must be taken down.
It remains to be seen whether the outdated diagnoses made for a 2-year-old article will now be applied elsewhere.