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‘Right to be forgotten’ spreads to Japan

A Japanese court has ordered Google to remove links to one man's embarrassing past, a ruliing that shows the “right to be forgotten” movement is spreading to Asia.

The court decision could replicate a hotly contested European decision that has forced the search engine giant to remove more than 170,000 links in the last six months.  

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The Tokyo District Court judge ordered Google to take down 120 search results connected to the man, who was reportedly linked to a crime more than a decade ago. As a result of the results, he said he had received death threats.

Some of the Google results “infringe personal rights,” Judge Nobuyuki Seki said in a court document obtained by the Kyodo News service. “Google, which manages the search engine, has the obligation to delete them.”

A Google spokesperson said the company, which is Japan's second most popular search engine, has “a standard process for removal requests."

“We remove pages from our search results when required by local law — including Japan’s longstanding privacy and defamation laws,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re currently reviewing this preliminary injunction from the Tokyo District Court."

If left to stand, the case could set a precedent allowing people to force websites to take down links to old or embarrassing information. The ability to remove links is an exercise of the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

Earlier this year, the European Court of Justice made a similar order demanding that Google get rid of links that contained information about a Spanish man whose home was auctioned off due to unpaid taxes.  

Some privacy advocates have cheered the decision, though critics have worried about it could lead to censorship online.

Since that May decision, Google has received nearly 145,000 requests to take down “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate” links, and has complied with about 41 percent of the requests, it said.