Biancardi v. Italy, No. 77419/16, ECtHR (First Section), 25 November 2021
On 25 November 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on a case concerning the so-called right to be forgotten. It was the first time the Court ruled on a journalist’s civil liability for not de-indexing information published on the Internet and its compatibility with art. 10 ECHR.
The applicant is a former editor-in-chief of an online newspaper. He had been found liable in civil proceedings for having kept on his newspaper’s website an article reporting on a fight in a restaurant, with several details on the related criminal proceedings. In particular, Italian civil courts noted that the applicant had not de-indexed the tags to the article. As a consequence, anyone could type into a search engine the name of the restaurant or its owner and access sensitive information regarding the criminal proceedings, despite the owner’s explicit request to have the article deindexed.
The Court endorsed the Italian Government’s view that not only Internet search engine providers can be obliged to de-index material but also administrators of newspaper or journalistic archives accessible through the Internet (as the applicant is).
The ECtHR moreover found – as the domestic courts had already done – that leaving this information online resulted in a breach of the restaurant owner’s right to reputation.
Therefore, the applicant's right to information, enshrined in the Convention, had not been violated, also because he had actually not been requested to permanently remove the article from the Internet, but only to de-index it. Hence, there was no violation of art. 10 of the Convention.
(Comment by Chiara Graziani)