AUGUST 10, 2020

Case Law | Judicial recognition of the right to be forgotten – Coppola Case.


Data Privacy & Data Protection Department | Case Law | Judicial recognition of the right to be forgotten – Coppola Case.

“Denegri, Natalia Ruth v. Google Inc.”, National Court of Appeals in Civil Matters No. 78, Division H, 10 August 2020.

On 10 August 2020, Division H of the National Court of Appeals in Civil Matters upheld the first instance ruling ordering Google to remove the link from its search engines and YouTube platform related to Natalia DeNegri and the Coppola Case – which had an important media impact in the 1990s – and “any possible image or video, obtained twenty years ago or more”.

Natalia Denegri requested the application of the “right to be forgotten” for the removal from the Google search engine of certain publications related to events that took place 24 years ago on the grounds that they affected her personal rights (honor and privacy), which should prevail over the right to information derived from those events, as they were old, harmful, unnecessary and irrelevant to the public opinion. In answering the complaint, Google rejected the claim, arguing that Denegri was involved “in events of undeniable public interest that the public has a right to know about and have available”.

The Court of First Instance ordered Google to de-index those links that may display videos or images obtained twenty years ago or more that contain scenes in which Denegri may have been involved and whose content show fights, verbal or physical aggression, insults, high-pitched arguments, scenes of singing and/or dancing of poor artistic quality, as well as, possible television reports in which the plaintiff had provided information about experiences from her private life, whether of a sexual or drug-related nature, on the grounds that such reproductions were not of any journalistic interest and that their publication only appeared to be based on morbid reasons.

However, the journalistic contents related to the Coppola case were maintained insofar as they were related to the journalistic coverage of a judicial process in which, although Natalia Denegri was involved, they dealt with facts of public interest that led to the conviction of a former Federal Judge.

The ruling was appealed by the parties, and the judges of Division H, after analyzing the rights at stake in cases in which the right to be forgotten is requested, such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy and honor, upheld the first instance decision. In this regard, among other arguments, the Court explained that “it should be noted that if a person considers himself affected and requests the search engine to remove such allegedly harmful information from its searches, this does not prevent the offender from continuing to do so. Therefore, if someone wants to spread his or her ideas, even if they are offensive, on the internet, he or she will not be censored. What is at issue is that the defendants do not broaden or disseminate the opinion of a third party that may cause harm. Whoever intends to disseminate ideas through the system can do so freely and, as appropriate, is responsible for his or her actions. There is no censorship here. (…) Moreover, the search engine can, even against the request of the person concerned, continue to disseminate, at least until a judge forbids it to do so. Of course, once an affected person asks to be removed, it will make the decision to continue disseminating or allowing the search, or not to do so. In such a case, like in other spheres of life, making a decision implies assuming a possible responsibility. This is not censorship. Finally, it is well known and has been pointed out by this Court on many occasions that just as the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression, it also protects the honor and privacy of all citizens”.

With regard to the right to be forgotten, it was indicated that this right is of restrictive interpretation and has the effect of limiting the dissemination of content. The information is not deleted, but access to it is restricted or hindered. In this case, on the grounds that the content in question lacked public interest and due to the length of time it had been disseminated, the first instance ruling was upheld.

Among the grounds, the Court explained that “This was a young, inexperienced person, who was surely confused by her strange circumstantial “fame”, and who must surely feel mortified by seeing these unseemly images, especially after such a long time and after having raised a family and worked professionally. I would like to clarify that I do not see the right to privacy affected, as the plaintiff exposed herself publicly, but rather her right to honor. Although she did expose her honor, she did so for more than enough time. As the a quo pointed out, I do not see that a decision of this type affects society’s right to be informed, nor the freedom of the press, exercised over a prolonged period of time without prior censorship of any kind”.

Click here to access the full text of the ruling.