The European Union recently ruled that people have the right to ask Google to remove defamatory information about them from its index.
From a strictly human standpoint, that is a good thing. If someone has made a poor decision or a mistake, or if someone was affected negatively by something outside his or her control and got bad press, there should be a way to eliminate it from immediate access by every other human on the planet.
We All Need Second Chances
I am a true believer in second chances. Say you "accidentally" punched someone on St. Patrick's Day back in college... You shouldn't have to pay for it the rest of your life or have the worry of future employers Googling your name and having the story pop up with a picture of you wearing a green top hat while in handcuffs.
In that regard, the ruling will help get those second chances and erase past indiscretions and get on with their lives.
On the other hand, and much more applicable to my day-to-day life, I fear this ruling making its way to the states. As I sit here across the pond, staring off into the vast ocean, I fear that one day I will blink and see this potential nightmare headed my way much like Stannis Baratheon's ships heading towards King's Landing in Games of Thrones.
The Downside of the European Union's Ruling
Why do I fear this ruling making its way overseas?
The reason is simple: work. Not the good kind of work. Not the rewarding, put-in-a-good-day-at-the-office kind.
I am talking about the tedious, unnecessary kind, like tollbooth collections. It's 2014, get an EZ Pass.
Think of it this way: In Europe, you now have a systematic way that you can ask Google to remove URLs that are harming your reputation. All you have to do is fill out a form and—poof—they're gone! (At least, that's the idea.)
Doesn't sound too bad, right?
Let's look at this concept from a business and big brand standpoint. "Are you saying that all we have to do is fill out these forms and Google will drop URLs and stories about us that we don't like? Let's completely focus on that and nothing else!"
This is what's going to happen, and it's going to suck, plain and simple.
The 'Link Detoxing' Phenomenon
Cue the next "link detoxing" phenomenon.
People will sell services—for a hefty fee—that will help you get bad stories and reviews about you or your company removed. And that is totally fine as I am not opposed to capitalism. I embrace it and daily shout its name into the hallowed halls of my office.
What I am opposed to is the responsibility of answering questions about this and possibly providing this service in the future.
Reputation Management? No Thanks
I run SEO strategies, not reputation management, and I do not intend to start.
Some stats from Google have already started to pour in on the types of requests happening. In a recent article, it was stated that 31% of requests have been fraud and scam incident removals, with 20% and 12% being related to violent and serious crime arrest removals and child pornography arrest removals respectively.
Though the latter two probably shouldn't be taken away depending on circumstances, the former however creates a valid argument and potential gigantic undertaking for a marketer: Get my bad reviews out of Google.
So, with very few companies still actively doing reputation management, who does a company turn to? Do companies ask their social media team or their SEO team? The answer is probably both.
That is where my fear lies. We will all become form fillers simply trying to detox our clients' reputations, getting rid of bad reviews and articles faster than they are created. That's going to become our jobs. Can't wait.
There's nothing to worry about though, right? This is only happening in Europe and only EU-versions of Google will be affected, so we'll be fine.That is until someone in Europe realizes that a defamatory article that was removed from an EU-version of Google is still very searchable and discoverable in the US-version of Google and decides to sue to get it removed, ultimately bringing this decision to our shorelines and onto US soil.
Let's all hope that day is far, far away—or in fact, never even breaks the horizon. Sometimes, things that are good in one way, are far worse in another. It's up to the lawmakers to make that decision.
Unfortunately, they all use Bing.
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