Updated: Jan 15
How big's too big? If you asked his tailor, or casting couch, the answer could be Harvey Weinstein.
The Internet's a really complicated place now. If the big man himself had only been featured in the New York Times, the next day we'd have just been eating our fish and chips off his oily jowls and moving on with life.
Thankfully, or sadly depending on the way to look at it, what people say about us all now stays online forever.
What's this "right to be forgotten" by search engines?
For this reason, a few years ago the European Court of Justice crafted a set of laws designed to hold search engines accountable for the relevance, and accuracy of the information they display.
In terms of Google, this is widely referred to as the “Right to be Forgotten”.
In brief, the law's designed to give everybody a “right to be forgotten” with regards to search engine results that display information about you which may be woefully out of date, inaccurate, no longer relevant or in the public interest.
Our "prolific producer" may just be out of luck though as it can be argued, strongly, that it’s in the public interest to know that anyone approaching him in a robe should avert their eyes run!
An example of someone who may be successful being forgotten (de-indexed) by Google would be a 48-year-old accountant and family man. He's been successful in business and active in the community, He's got an old conviction for marijuana possession at 20 though next to his name for whatever reason on Google. Unless you’re a Reggae band looking for tax advice, there’s little relevance in this "search result" to who he is now though.
Potentially someone who was wrongfully accused would benefit once the criminal process runs its course (assuming of course all allegations were proven to be false or malicious).
Having the label “paedophile” attached your name at a kindergarten job interview would, as you could imagine, severely limit career paths and be totally out of order for someone who was found to be completely innocent 10 years ago.
Is it easy to "be forgotten" by Google?
Don't be silly. There are strict criteria surrounding what can and cannot be removed, however, with a little skill and focus, it's finally possible.
Google spent a small fortune fighting the ruling by the European Courts and whilst staying within the bounds of the law, it would seem, Google's been as uncooperative as possible facilitating it.
Google is a business. They generate revenue from people happy clicking on the Internet and nothing sells better than bad news or in the modern context, bad links.
Harvey Weinstein might struggle with an application to be forgotten if he’s convicted, however, if all of the accusers were as happy as Renée Zellweger looks in this pic to hang out with him, and by some miracle he’s set free, then you could argue that in the European Union his midnight massage fetish, would in fact have that right to be forgotten.
Things are never black-and-white. For any of us.
Maybe you made a mistake in the past that you’ve paid for and want to move on from, perhaps been the victim of an online smear campaign. Either way, all may not be lost.
Below is a list of criteria Google looks for when determining whether or not you have a right to be forgotten; all are factors Google may take into consideration when an application is made.
Is the content in the public interest?
Is the content still relevant to the reason it was collected?
The person of interest and their standing in society (public figures, politicians, criminals etc)
The nature of the content (explicit or sexual)
Is the content self authored, a public document or journalistic?
Should young Harvey be acquitted of all charges and stay in the US however, either way, he’s buggered (and not just in a prison movie kind of way)..no such law applies in the US, or indeed outside of the European Union.
He will now, forever, be the sum total of all content online related to his name. Whether relevant or not, or indeed just a hapless victim of a badly fitted bath robe.
A sobering thought and a timely reminder to us all to “keep it clean”. Reputations matter, online and off.
I think I'm buggered online too - what can you do to help me?
YES. For those that need a little help to move on, at YESpbm we work closely with people to craft the story they want to tell.
We can use a variety of multi-pronged approaches designed to not only clear their name or polish their personal brand, but to show the world what they actually want to share online. Not the other way around.
We can’t stop your neighbour thinking you’re a prat, but we can paint a picture for the world to see that has you sitting slightly below Gandhi in abstinence and just above Beckham for corner kicks.
Applying to Google and having outdated, or inaccurate information removed under the “right to be forgotten” rules can be a significant part of that, however, if you’re patient and details focused, you can do this bit yourself.
Keep in mind though, Google specifically asks that you not resubmit applications. We therefor strongly advise you to get it right first time.
If you’d like some help with Google requests, or to discuss a "brand" NEW you through reputation management, you can contact the author directly to arrange a confidential free chat on firstname.lastname@example.org
... but sorry, no, I don’t have Gwyneth Paltrow's number. Besides, I think she's already got her Oscar.