Japan’s high court, according to the The Wall Street Journal, has ruled against a man seeking to have search results about him “forgotten.”  Even though the court didn’t appear to take up the issue of an EU-style “Right To Be Forgotten,” it elevated the speech status of search results and declined to establish such a broad right in the country.

According to the court, any requests or content removal from search results needed to be assessed individually, as well as the public interest in the information had to be weighed against the potential harm to the person in question.  With this particular case, a man in Japan convicted of child pornography charges sued to have the information about him removed from the search index.  The Japanese Supreme Court said that the crime was serious and “continues . . . to be a matter of public interest.”

In the Japanese ruling, the search results are a form of speech and censoring or restricting them could violate free speech rights.  The court said that there were circumstances in which the rights of individuals would outweigh the broader protection of speech when this particular situation was not int he public interest.  The impact on the individual’s reputation was significant.

The court established a “balancing test” that will require every plaintiff to sue for the removal of unflattering content.  If though Google has hailed the decision, it could be in their best interest to contemplate an administrative mechanism, so that every individual could request removals rather than having that go through the courts.

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