Justice Elma Sheehan of the Circuit Court recently delivered judgment in Mark Savage v the Data Protection Commissioner and Google Ireland Inc finding that Mark Savage, a former election candidate, was entitled to have information posted about him on Reddit removed by Google.
Mark Savage, a candidate in the 2014 local elections (the “Appellant“), handed out leaflets during his campaign that referred to “gay perverts cavorting in flagrante on the beach in broad daylight“. The leaflets were the subject of a Reddit thread that described the Appellant as “North County Dublin’s homophobic candidate“.
The link to the thread was listed in Google’s search results when the Appellant’s name was entered into the search engine and the Appellant subsequently requested that this thread be de-indexed by Google arguing that it branded him as a homophobic.
Google refused to de-index or remove the content, a decision appealed by the Appellant to the Data Protection Commissioner (the “DPC“) who found that there had been no contravention by Google of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 (the “Acts“). This decision was based on the fact that an internet user seeking out information on the local elections is unlikely to consult an online discussion forum as a source of verified facts.
Circuit Court decision
This decision of the DPC was appealed and subsequently overturned by the Circuit Court which found that the fundamental rights and legitimate interests of the Appellant had been prejudiced. Unlike the DPC, Justice Sheehan was of the view that, given the manner in which search engines such as Google operate, it is likely that individual users of the internet could in fact consult online discussion forums such as Reddit as a source of verified facts.
An appeal to the High Court has been lodged already by both the DPC and Google and is listed for hearing in May 2017.
Contributed by John Farrell