On May 12, 2016, The French High Court (“Cour de Cassation”) rendered a short decision stating that the right to be forgotten does not supersede the freedom of press. In this case, two brothers took legal action against a famous French daily newspaper.
The two individuals requested that their respective names be removed from search results displayed by the newspaper’s website search engine (not a third party search engine such as Google Search or Bing). The newspaper’s search engine indexed a link to an article published in 2006 which reported on a sanction imposed by the Council of State on the two brothers.
The High Court ruled that requiring a media organisation to remove information contained in its articles (the names and surnames of individuals) from its archive or to limit access to such articles by de-indexing links from its search engine exceeds the restrictions that may be imposed on the freedom of press.
Two weeks earlier, however, the Belgian High Court (“Cour de Cassation”) came to exactly the opposite conclusion. In this case, an individual made a claim against the editor of a newspaper, seeking to obtain the removal of his name from the digital version of an article archived on the editor’s website. The print version of the article had been published in the 1990s and reported on a fatal accident in which the claimant (a physician under influence) had been involved.
The High Court ruled that the freedom of expression laid down in Article 10 of the European Convention Human Rights is not an absolute right and may, in specific circumstances, be subject to interferences by other rights, such as the right to privacy, which includes the right to be forgotten. According to the court, maintaining a non-anonymised article many years after the event in an online archive, causes disproportionate damage to the individual concerned and outweighs the benefits of a strict application of the freedom of speech and press.