Reforming the Law of Reputation

Media and Content, Internet, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Frank Pasquale


Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 515-539, 2015


Listings displayed by search engines can influence key decision-makers such as employers, creditors, and insurers. The “right to be forgotten” can help individuals remove troubling information from search results.

Policy Relevance

Protection for free speech should be balanced against the right to privacy.

Main Points

  • Search engines make it impossible for anyone to escape defamation online even after the defamatory post is taken down, as the legal action itself appears prominently in search results.
  • Search engines could employ additional workers to remove problematic listings in search results, as they do to remove violent or pornographic listings; alternately, non-profit entities could help search engines manage these listings.
  • Google has won some lawsuits claiming first amendment protection for its search results, but this right is questionable:
    • Google claims first amendment rights as a speaker, but in other cases insists that it is a mere conduit for information.
    • Google is a dominant firm comparable to television broadcasters, whose first amendment rights are reduced because of the need for regulation.
  • Europe recognizes the “right to be forgotten,” which lets individuals ask that some search results associated with their names be removed; the methods that Google must adopt to comply with European law can also be used to protect reputation in the United States.
  • In the United States, a right to be forgotten should be created for medical information, bankruptcies and some other credit data, and some criminal and arrest records, especially for juveniles.
  • Search engine results are not opinions or expressions of truth entitled to full first amendment protection.


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