Google Is Being Forced To Censor The History Of Merrill Lynch — And That Should Terrify You
The European Union’s new law giving people a “right to be forgotten,” which requires Google to remove links to information about them, is having exactly the effect its critics predicted: It is censoring the internet, giving new tools that help the rich and powerful (and ordinary folk) hide negative information about them, and letting criminals make their histories disappear.
Exhibit A: Google was required to delete a link to this BBC article about Stan O’Neal, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch. O’Neal led the bank in the mid-2000s, a period when it became dangerously over-exposed to the looming mortgage crisis. When the crisis hit, Merrill’s losses were so great the bank had to be sold to Bank of America. O’Neal lost his job, but he exited with a $161.5 million golden parachute.
There is nothing incorrect in the post, in fact it’s a rather mild account of O’Neal’s incompetence during the period. O’Neal was forced out of the company after he began discussing selling it without informing his board of directors. This is ancient, well-established history. Having it removed from Google doesn’t undo the fact that it happened. But there is a new generation of 25-year-old investment bankers who perhaps do not have a firm grasp of the 2007 crisis that reshaped banking globally. Their grasp will be ever more slightly weaker due to this new law.
“There is an argument that in removing the blog, Google is confirming the fears of many in the industry that the ‘right to be forgotten’ will be abused to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest,” BBC writer Robert Peston says .