Friday 4 July 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: EU plays with the News

Google’s domination of the search engine market often makes it seem like it is the only single portal of information. This continually raises controversy over the company’s power and therefore control over online data flow. This week the debate spiked in profile, as Google erased certain links to news articles, blogs and so on from its search results.

This action follows the European court ruling in May that granted individuals the “right to be forgotten” online. The decision, which was fought by Google, asks that the company comply with the law in taking down search results that are deemed “inappropriate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”. Indeed, it is the search results themselves that are in contention, and not the content of the article or story in question. The ruling will only affect Google searches in Europe, whereas (in the USA) will remain untouched.

In response to this ruling, earlier this week Google began informing several British news outlets on the deletions that it was having to make. On Wednesday, for example, the BBC’s Robert Peston reported that he had received a ‘notice of removal from Google Search’ relating to a blog that he had written in 2007 on San O’Neal, the former CEO of notorious investment bank Merril Lynch. This removal hit the headlines throughout the course of the week, causing a spike in controversy and, no doubt, a spike in the number of hits that Google received.

A case can be made for the individuals who may deserve to disassociate their name from a story that has forever branded them on the basis of a mistake. However, more can be said and questioned on the wider implications that Google’s filtering could have on censorship and the media industry.

Importantly, should the EU have the right to pass judgment over what is “inappropriate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”?

Surely this judgement is subjective; by giving search enginges the power to decide what should and shouldn't be removed from our screens are we not posing a great threat to freedom of speech? Written pieces on the questionable actions of those involved in the Financial Crisis of 2007/08 are surely still of significant interest to the public even if they are considered by some to be "no longer relevant". Allowing the wealthy and powerful to conceal their tarnished reputations by simply filing a request of removal to Google is a dangerous path for the company and the EU court to take.

Robert Peston said that Google had “killed” this piece of his journalism. Indeed, in response to Google informing publishers of what stories had been removed, the individuals who filed the complaints have since experienced the complete reverse effect on what the ruling set out to achieve; the publicity surrounding this discussion simply highlighted and re-told the very stories that were asked to be removed. Furthermore, the subject of the deleted article will surely face more questioning from the public as publishers reveal those wanting to hide articles written about their actions.

Between May 29 and June 30, over 70,000 requests of deletions were made to Google. At the core of this debate lies the lack of clarity surrounding Google’s decision making; who can make a request? What are the criteria for deletion? How can journalists respond? The media industry is calling for transparency from Google in order to establish to what extent search filtering will impact the freedom of speech.

Abchaps have been making the most of the fair weather this week by getting out and about with other advisers. We welcomed some of Cenkos’s finest Technology experts to our office for some bubbly, before the invitation was returned by a trip to their Summer part at Coq D’Argent.

Our Market Lunches never fail to stir some great discussions about the capital markets, and a particularly interesting discussion was held at our China focused lunch, relating to the need for further promotion of Chinese companies in the London.

To expand its London corporate practice, Hogan Lovells has added equity capital specialist, Daniel Simons, as a Partner. Meanwhile, Fieldfisher has added Mark Webber as a Technology Partner at its London office, who specialises in technology, digital media, e-commerce, IT law, and IP-related transactions.Crowe Clark Whitehill also promoted Paul Blythe to the role of Corporate Finance Partner. Blythe was previously a director at the firm and has expertise in Natural Resources. He will continue to be based in firm’s London office.

Google Scrubbing: The removal of certain results from a Google search.

Thursday saw Dow Jones warming itself up nicely for a record breaking Independence Day. Although we Brits may geographically be a few miles away from the Americas, there is no reason as to why we shouldn’t help celebrate this booming economy. Those wishing to do so can raise a glass tonight at 36 Craven Street, the former home of US founding father Benjamin Franklin, with a historical tour and show.

Care for a more international celebration? City lawyer Jessica Tucker will be serving up a selection of edible treats from across the world with the Urban Food Fest on Saturday 5 July. Taking place in Shoreditch, visitors will “want for nothing” with stalls of pizza, pad thai, halloumi, souvlakia, sushi and much more. This is just another event that proves that you do not have to leave London to escape the City!

Bringing the focus a little closer to home, on Saturday the V&A is launching itself into the 21st century with its “Rapid Response Collecting” exhibition. With a pair of Primark jeans from the Rana Plaza factory disaster and the world’s first 3D printed gun, the V&A is taking a whole new approach to modern art, communicating to the British audience about the interaction between current affairs, architecture, technology and society.

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