SOVA Center loses case against Google on “the right to be forgotten”
On June 21, 2017, the Moscow Arbitration Court considered SOVA Center’s case against Google, and ruled against satisfying this claim.
SOVA Center demanded that Google restore the addresses of two news pieces from SOVA Center’s website concerning the punishments for racially motivated violence. These web addresses were deleted from the search engine’s system. These links were removed on the basis of “the right to be forgotten” at the request of an unspecified person, clearly in connection with the mention of this person’s name.
This concerns the news articles from 2006 and 2008: “In Obninsk, two skinheads involved attack on Angolan citizens are convicted” and “In Obninsk, convictions passed against eight nationalists, who disseminated a video of neo-Nazi attacks on the internet”. SOVA Center received the notification about the deletion of the search engine elements connected with these web pages from Google in March 2016. Clearly, the actions of the search engine were subsequent to the implementation of the “right to be forgotten” by one of the accused.
In court, a Google Inc. representative called into question the receipt by SOVA Center of the notification from Google. The representative said that main issue was that he essentially could not comment on the situation because he did not know which search query in particular was used to delete the aforementioned search results. Furthermore, the representative said, SOVA Center also could not reliably attest to this, given that the notification did not disclose this information. However, only one of the convicted persons is mentioned in both news articles by name: Yury Shchebetyuk. Indeed, a Google search on the query “Юрий Щебетюк site:sova-center.ru” does not produce anything, which was demonstrated in court. Meanwhile queries for the other names of those involved produced one of the two relevant news articles (see the query for “Алексей Ершов site:sova-center.ru”).
The court refused to check whether or not SOVA Center received the notification from Google, despite there being an opportunity to do so during these proceedings.
In general, the court found SOVA Center’s arguments and those of its legal representative, Roskomsvoboda Project, unconvincing and rejected the claim.
We assert that “the right to be forgotten” actually reflects only the interests of the applicant while ignoring the interests of the victims of the crime and public interests. This involves the possession of information about crimes against the foundations of the constitutional order and public safety, in particular, information about crimes motivated by hate, the perpetrators of which encroach on such social values as equality. The personal interests of the convicted in such situations cannot be set above the interests of the public and the interests of their victims.