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Europe’s high court rules against applying ‘right to be forgotten’ worldwide

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  1. Newsgathering
Google and other search engines can’t be required to take down links worldwide that have been delisted in the EU.
Photo of flags outside of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Photo by Katarina Dzurekova, Flickr.

In a decision today that has international implications for newsgathering and access to information, the Court of Justice of the European Union, Europe’s high court, ruled that Google and other search engines cannot be required to apply the so-called “right to be forgotten” worldwide. According to the court, when Google and other search engines receive requests from European Union citizens to delist, or take down, links to certain results that appear when looking up their name, they must only do so within the EU and not elsewhere.

In an argument before the CJEU in Sept. 2018, and in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in support of Google in Nov. 2017, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press explained that forcing search engines to take down links worldwide that have been delisted in the EU would inhibit the press and public’s access to news and information.

“At a time when many press freedom advocates are rightly focused on litigation support and harassment and intimidation of reporters, this case underscores that we cannot overlook regulatory threats on the internet that could undermine First Amendment protections,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “The CJEU’s decision helps ensure that search engines can remain both a crucial avenue for journalists to find information, and for the public to access news that informs our communities, promotes debate, and facilitates the exchange of ideas.”

The Reporters Committee and media coalition’s efforts were supported by attorneys from WilmerHale’s offices in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington, D.C., who were deeply involved in the case and argued before the CJEU on behalf of the Reporters Committee.

The Reporters Committee first intervened in the case when it rallied a media coalition to send a letter to the French data privacy authority in 2015 expressing concern over its order that Google implement worldwide delisting of links taken down in the EU. When Google appealed that order to the French Council of State, the Reporters Committee and a coalition of nearly 30 media organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Google.

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and represents journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.