Mystery surrounds an attempt to wipe from search engine Google a Surrey Comet story into Hillcroft College losing more than £400,000 on a disastrous fundraising concert.
The 2010 report has been partially wiped from Google’s search results after a request under new controversial “right to be forgotten” EU laws.
Press freedom campaigners have described the new law as the start of an era of web censorship and as a way of people or organisations airbrushing their internet history.
The Comet has made unsuccessful attempts to contact all of the people mentioned in the 2010 article including former principal June Ireton, current senior staff members Stacey Morgan and Frances Marsden and events promoter Dave Clarke.
Former mayor Ian McDonald said it was not him. Google will not say who wanted it removed.
Hillcroft principal Michael Wheeler said: “It is definitely not an organisational request. I’m aware of this new law. But it is definitely not something that has come from me or any of the governing body.
“This has only just hit me so I have not had a chance to consider it or investigate. Clearly we will be making inquiries.”
He said on Thursday afternoon a few hours later he had not had a chance to speak to staff to find if they had made the request.
Hillcroft, in South Bank, Surbiton, lost £443,000 on the Sandown concert that flopped after selling only 3,000 tickets when 14,000 people were expected to show up.
Kingston and Surbiton MP Edward Davey, who is a Hillcroft patron, said: “Using this law to expunge digital history is bad enough, but doing so without the permission of those involved, seemingly at random, is even worse."
Fellow patron Councillor Shiraz Mirza said: “It’s part of the history. People are entitled to see it.”
Google has received tens of thousands of requests from people across Europe in the few days since the ruling.
It says results that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed” can be removed.
But it also says Google will consider if there is a public interest in the information – information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.
Google is still pointing to the article on the website of the Surrey Comet’s sister paper, the Kingston Guardian.
DELETED FROM GOOGLE?
Other stories removed from Surrey Comet sister papers.
- An Oxford Times story from 2006 about an archaeology specialist found guilty of trying to steal £200 worth of Christmas presents by hiding them in his child's pushchair.
- A story about a large police cordon in Bradford city centre in July 2012 after an unnamed man was found injured and unconscious published on the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.
- A story from the Bolton News in October 2010 about three soldiers being attacked in a nightclub and the conviction of their attackers.
- A seemingly innocous story about a fun day at a Colchester school from May 2008.
- A letters/diary style page from the East London and West Essex Guardian series in 2004 including items about collections for the Sudan Emergency Appeal, the Marlow Fete and a bat walk
l Want to be forgotten? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.