5 Things That Google’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Won’t Approve

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Online reputation management is made a many times harder by the internet. Just about anyone can post an article or glowing PR piece promoting a business, but what if you’re trying to separate yourself or a business from your personal past?

If you’re looking to repair your personal online reputation then there’s the option to make a “Right to be Forgotten” request of the search engines such as Google, that will basically strip the information from the web in post-Brexit U.K. and the EU. However, certain things won’t get approved, and for the sake of keeping you up-to-date, we’ll be taking a look at 5 examples. 


  • Government-Created Content

So if you want to remove negative content online, you’ll run up against a problem if it’s content created by a government – so, for example, the Sex Offenders Register or a public announcement regarding a business. 

Google’s algorithm will automatically defer to recognised authorities like governments when it comes to processing requests to remove content. Generally speaking, this information is made public in the interest of safety and public knowledge, which means that however inconvenient it is from a PR perspective, it’s probably going to stay up. 

Generally speaking it’s pretty much impossible to get this kind of content struck down, which means you’ll need to put as much distance between you and it instead.


  • Court Convictions

Any type of court conviction which you might face is likely to result in the information staying up on the internet. In terms of negative content removal, it’s pretty much a permanent fixture, so you’ll have to get used to it. 

Google will leave a court conviction up because the details of the crime are usually part of a legally binding process. If this information has been released to the public, Google will defer to the judgment of said authority in most cases. 

A court conviction is considered to be a serious piece of information. In many cases, this information will be considered to be a matter of public safety and record, which means that Google is not likely to take it down. If you’ve been convicted of a serious crime and then sentenced, this information will be displayed for any concerned parties.


  • Allegations of Serious Offences

If you’ve been accused of committing a serious crime, this information will probably remain up even if you lodge an appropriate request with Google.

A serious offence can have major ramifications for your reputation but at the same time, from a perspective of trying to remove negative online content, you may struggle. Google considers these kinds of allegations to be character references in many cases, especially if you’re a person or company of influence. In the majority of cases, they’ll also argue that it provides key public information. 

If this is the case, then you’ll find that when it comes to your offence, it’s highly likely it’ll stay up on the web even if you lodge the request to take it down. Again, it also largely depends on where the content is coming from. If, for example, the allegation in question was part of an ongoing investigation made public by a legal authority, then Google would not take it down.


  • Content of Character

Online reputation management is hard for a business, but if you’re a person, it gets even more complex. A lot of people who are famous also have a degree of influence, and use their positions as a way of broadcasting certain political ideologies or opinions on social issues. 

That, in and of itself, is not an issue. The issue comes when we explore content posted on the internet. If you’ve given an opinion on a relevant and current topic, that will probably stay up on the web. Google will typically follow a practice of making sure that the opinions of anyone with influence – politicians, influencers, celebrities – stay available for public viewing because these people influence large numbers based on their philosophies. 


  • Current News Stories

High-profile people and companies do attract a lot of attention for their opinions and actions. Just look at the 2021 cases involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – two incredibly high-profile celebrities embroiled in a court battle. It has been picked up and covered by news stations all across the world, and for good reason. 

With that being said, trying to repair business reputation can be tough when there are current news stories going on. As much as a team might want to try and put a lid on these cases, try and keep them quiet, Google generally won’t take these types of stories down if the issue itself is ongoing. 

Content of this kind will usually fall under the influence of public information. The business or person in question may well be a high-profile figure. In that case, you’ll find that trying to suppress the story just isn’t going to be possible. Their sphere of influence and the impact they have on people is too great to quash anything that may paint them in a different light. 


Final Thoughts 

So ultimately, when it comes to removing negative online content, you have to know what is likely to be rejected by search engines out of hand. Google is a prime example but truthfully, you’ll see search engines everywhere doing the exact same thing. 

There are a lot of things that you stand a good chance at getting taken down – things like personal information and irrelevant content are all likely to meet the criteria. But anything that just looks bad isn’t always going to be something you can hide from. The first instinct is always going to be to suppress the information but it isn’t always possible to do so. 

Instead, companies would do well to try and distance themselves from these controversial opinions. The best thing a person can do in a lot of situations is to try and damage control the problem, and then use that as a way of stepping back and assessing the situation. Sometimes, Google just won’t play ball with you. 

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