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Japanese court orders Google to remove search results that hint at a man's unflattering past

TOKYO – A Japanese judge has ordered Google to remove search results of a man’s unflattering past in a new “right to be forgotten” order following a landmark ruling in Europe.

The Tokyo District Court ordered Google Japan on Thursday to remove search results that hinted at the man’s relations with a criminal organization after he complained his privacy rights were violated.

Google spokesman Taj Meadows said the company has a standard process for removal requests, and people can come to Google.

“We remove pages from our search results when required by local law, including Japan’s longstanding privacy and defamation laws,” he said. He said the company was reviewing the Tokyo court injunction.

It is unclear whether the case would serve as a role model for others and such requests will become a bigger trend in Japan.

Some experts say Japan needs to define the borders of privacy and search functions.

In May, Europe’s highest court ruled Google should delete references to negative past information, including old debts and past arrests, to protect what has come to be called “the right to be forgotten.”

Some called that a win for privacy rights, while others warned it could lead to censorship.

An emailed request to the attorney representing the man in the latest Tokyo case was not immediately answered.

In the court injunction, Judge Nobuyuki Seki said some of the search results “infringe personal rights,” and had harmed the plaintiff, according to Kyodo News.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama