Google win in right to be forgotten case is victory for global freedom of expression

Google win in right to be forgotten case is victory for global freedom of expression - Media

Freedom of expression organisation ARTICLE 19 has called the European Court of Justice (CJEU)’s ruling into the ‘right to be forgotten’ a victory for freedom of expression. ARTICLE 19 led a coalition of free speech organisations that intervened in the CJEU’s hearing into Google vs Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL).

The CJEU followed our recommendations and has ruled that search engines such as Google, will not be compelled to apply the ‘right to be forgotten’ across the world. 

Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:

“This ruling is a victory for global freedom of expression. Courts or data regulators in the UK, France or Germany should not be able to determine the search results that internet users in America, India or Argentina get to see.  

The Court is right to state that the balance between privacy and free speech should be taken into account when deciding if websites should be de-listed – and also to recognise that this balance may vary around the world. It is not right that one country’s data protection authorities can impose their interpretation on Internet users around the world.”

Background to the case

The CJEU hearing into Google vs CNIL took place on September 11, 2018 after France’s highest administrative court asked for clarification in relation to the 2014 ruling in Google Spain. This judgment allows European citizens to ask search engines like Google to remove links to information linked to their name that is “inadequate, irrelevant or … excessive”. This is  commonly known as the ‘right to be forgotten’. While the content itself remains online, it cannot be found through online searches of the individual’s name.

The CJEU was asked to clarify whether a court or data regulator should require a search engine to de-list websites only in the country where it has jurisdiction or across the entire world. 

France’s data regulator, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), had argued that if they uphold a complaint by a French citizen, search engines such as Google should not only be compelled to remove links from but all Google domains. This could mean that regulators in Europe could decide which search results the rest of the world get to see.

Intervention by ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 led an intervention by eight international freedom of expression organisations who warned of the potential harm to Internet users’ right to access information if this happens. They warned that forcing search engines to de-list information on a global basis would be disproportionate. They also argued that the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression must be balanced when a court or independent body decide whether to de-list a website in their own country. 


Pam Cowburn

[email protected]

07749 785 932

Notes to Editors

  • ARTICLE 19 filed a third party intervention in Google Inc. v. Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes with the following leading digital, human rights and freedom of expression organisations: Derechos Digitales, the Centre for Democracy and Technology, the Clinique d’intérêt public et de politique d’Internet du Canada, the Electronic Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Open Net Korea and Pen International. Read the coalition’s submission.
  • Read ARTICLE 19’s 2016 policy briefing on the Right to be Forgotten.