Belfast Telegraph

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Dissidents' crimes deleted by Google after privacy ruling

By Rebecca Black

Published 29/06/2015

Democratic Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson
Democratic Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson

Links to online news reports about dissident republicans in court, an incident in a loyalist feud and smuggling in Northern Ireland are just some of the hundreds of thousands that have been deleted from the world's biggest internet search engine.

And an MP has said history is being whitewashed thanks to a special directive from the European Union called the "right to be forgotten".

It has led to Google removing 498,737 links from search results since May this year. They include 63,616 pages following requests from inside the UK.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has expressed concern and questioned how decisions are made over what gets removed from the search engine results. The BBC has cast some light on the situation by publishing a list of links from its website that Google has deleted.

BBC managing editor Neil McIntosh said the broadcaster had taken the decision to make clear to licence fee payers which pages had been removed.

"We think it is important that those with an interest in the 'right to be forgotten' can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling," he said.

Several on the list released by the BBC that Google removed relate to Northern Ireland, including some new reports.

One of the deleted links was to a story in December 2001 which names nine men who then appeared in court in connection with a large-scale operation against smuggling on both sides of the border after a joint operation between the PSNI and Gardai.

Another relates to an attack during a loyalist feud in Carrickfergus involving pipe bomb attacks and shootings, while a further link is to a new story about three men appearing in the Special Criminal Court in Dublin to face charges in connection with a dissident bomb-making factory.

Another link to a report about a missing person involving a 21-year-old woman from Belfast was taken down, as was a court report about a Newtownards man who murdered his best friend in 2004 and was jailed.

Mr Donaldson said: "I can see a case for some people to have derogatory statements removed, but where there have been legal proceedings, I don't think it is right that the public record is being expunged in these circumstances."

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