Campaigners had accused Google of cynically deleting links to stories for no good reason / AP


Google has been forced to reverse its decision to remove a number of links from search results amid accusations of censorship, restoring the articles in the wake of criticism against the company reported by The Independent on Thursday.

Since the “right to be forgotten” ruling in May Google has received more than 70,000 demands for links to be erased. The company was criticised this week after a series of links to stories by a number of media organisations, including this newspaper, were deleted with no reason being given.

Several links to a story from 2010, about a Scottish football referee, Dougie McDonald, who admitted lying about awarding a penalty in the Scottish FA Cup, are now back online after initially being taken down.

Peter Barron, Google’s director of communications for Europe, admitted the company could have handled things better. “It is clearly a difficult process. We are committed to doing it as responsibly as we possibly can. We are learning as we go. I’m sure we will get better at it.”

He added: “The European Court of Justice ruling was not something that we wanted, but it is now the law in Europe, and we are obliged to comply with that law.” Mr Barron insisted Google was “absolutely not” being deliberately over-enthusiastic in removing web links and said: “These are difficult judgments. We have to balance a whole range of things – free expression, privacy and the public’s right to know.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Barron said: “This is new territory for us all. We opposed the ruling. There’s no right of appeal in the ECJ but we think it’s important to have a public debate about this.”