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Asian Countries Consider Implementing “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

It’s been a year since Google and other search engines were forced to scrub their search results as a part of the “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling. During the last one year, Google has received thousands of link removal requests and it has removed close to half a million links from its search results. Even as European lawmakers continue to push Google to expand the “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling beyond their borders, there are signs that similar laws may be brought in a number of Asian countries.

In 2014, Hong Kong based film tycoon Albert Yeung filed a unique defamation case against Google. He argued that the search engine was automatically suggesting “albert yeung triad” via its autocomplete feature whenever people searched for his name. Yeung claimed that this behavior on the part of Google was damaging his reputation by tying him with the organized crime. Google claimed that the autocomplete feature generates suggestions based on previous searches and even argued that it was not the actual publisher of the content, Yeung was allowed to go ahead with the case by the High Court. Google’s plea is expected to be heard by the Court of appeal pretty soon.

Yeung’s case has generated considerable debate within Hong Kong since it involves freedom of expression and restricting search engine results. While some officials are asking Google to implement right to be forgotten within Hong Kong as well, others are of the opinion that people’s right to discuss and know should take precedence over an individual’s concerns. Claudia Mo, renowned journalist, politician and member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council; said that Hong Kong’s freedom of expression should be preserved and any new legislation should not be allowed to eradicate history. Considering that Hong Kong faced mass protests in 2014, some activists even fear that any such legislation would allow China to censor web results within the territory.

Hong Kong is not the only place where right to be forgotten is in limelight. Last year, a Japanese court directed Google to remove multiple links from its search results which tied a plaintiff to criminal activities. Here again Google tried to defend itself by saying that it was not the job of the search engine to censor information but ultimately the company was forced to remove the links. While the court did not ask Google to implement “Right To Be Forgotten” throughout Japan, it won’t be a surprise if the search providers are asked to do so in the near future.

Meanwhile in South Korea, the regulators are exploring the possibility of introducing right to be forgotten just like European Union has done it within Europe. Although this action was not prompted by any specific court case, Korean authorities are keen to follow what’s happening around the world. Along with the tough defamation laws that exist within the country, right to be forgotten would offer a perfect way of hiding information from the Korean public.

July 16, 2015

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