Google was asked to remove 249 search results by State agents

Tech giant has received removal requests from elected representatives and judiciary

Google complied with 35.4% of State requests  in the past eight years. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Google complied with 35.4% of State requests in the past eight years. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Irish Government bodies and officials have asked Google to remove 249 search results from its service in the past eight years.

Since 2010, the search giant has received 87 requests from State bodies and officials, including elected representatives, relating to the 249 web results.

It also received 15 requests from the Irish judiciary to remove 85 links to content, usually on foot of a court order relating to a defamation case.

The vast majority of the requests related to Google’s search service and YouTube, which it also owns.

Google complied with 35.4 per cent of State requests. It was far more likely to comply with requests from courts than from the Government.

According to Google, 68 of the 102 requests came from organisations or officials complaining about “privacy and security” while 23 alleged defamation. It categorised the remainder under hate speech, fraud, trademark or copyright infringement, adult content and suicide promotion.

Government criticism

Other reasons for removal which can be cited include electoral law and “government criticism”.

According to the data relating to Ireland, no requests have been made for the removal of links because of government criticism.

Google provides little information about the authority the requests were made under or the exact reasons behind them. However, it gave three anonymised “samples” of Government requests for the removal of search results.

One request came from a Government official seeking the removal of a link “to a State-run newspaper article that reported on the official being charged in a US court for battery”. Google refused the request.

Another request came from an Irish politician who asked Google to remove links to “reputable news articles”, alleging they were defamatory. Google refused after determining the articles were not about the politician but about a convicted murderer who shared his name.

Courts Service

A third request came from the Courts Service asking for the removal of weblinks from Google because they contained “inaccurate criticism of a judge’s exercise of authority”.

The pages in question criticised a judge for their decision but under “the procedural rules of the Irish courts the judge had no legal discretion in the matter”, Google said. It agreed to remove the links.

A Court Service spokesman said he did not know what the request related to and that it could have come from an individual court office. He said he had not made a take-down request to Google in at least five years and “would be very slow to do so” unless, for example, someone was making threats against a judge on a page.

The data, which was released by Google as part of its latest “transparency report”, relates to the period from 2010 to July 2018.

Figures for requests from non-Government sources under the 2014 “right to be forgotten” rule are presented separately. According to data from March 2018, there have been 17,700 such requests from people in Ireland.