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May 27, 2020

Digital Media and the Right to Be Forgotten

Media & Entertainment
Reading Time: 4 minutes

      I.         PREAMBLE

The “right to be forgotten”, which has become a trending right in the internet and digital media where even legal distribution and accure content of the information about individuals constitutes a violation of human rights, is of great importance especially for the dignity of these individuals, for independent development of  their personalities and full authority over his/her personal data.  As a matter of fact, in the new era in which the traditional media approach has been digitized, all kinds of individuals ‘ posts and contents are realized via the internet, especially social media, and personal information about individuals can be shared and transferred with millions of people and media within seconds, individuals need to get rid of this influence of digital media, be protected and request their undesired information to be deleted from digital world.

Especially thanks to search engines like Google and Yahoo, individuals’ data and even information, photos, shares and content from years ago, which people do not want to be remembered, are accessible to all users of the virtual world with just one click. Therefore, within the scope of this article, current procedures for the development, effects and use of the right to be forgotten in digital media affecting the dignity, personal development and lives of individuals are examined together with national and international legislation and case law.




Thanks to today’s technology and digital media, personal data that people do not want to be known is coming to light very easily and quickly. This situation has brought a new perspective on the legal system for people who want to live freely in relation to the protection of personal data, and who want to destroy their information and data belong to their past from digital media, and has given rise to the right to be forgotten as a modern right. The right to be forgotten is defined as the right to eliminate and prevent further dissemination of the individual’s photographs, credentials, addresses and other personal content in the digital history at his/her own request. By means of this right, the individual aims to no longer be able to watch or keep track of her/his personal and deleted personal data by third parties.


In this context, the right to be forgotten has come about as a natural result of an individual’s desire to shape his/her past and future freely, to use or not to use his/her personal data freely in the digital world, and has become a very active right to use in today’s technology and accessibility. It should be noted that the right to be forgotten is also related to human rights, which are primarily protected by constitutional regulations, as they closely concern one’s dignity, personal development and full authority over his/her personal data.


Although the basis of the right to be forgotten is based on the Directive 95/46/EC of the European Union, its international recognition and effectiveness was achieved by the “Google Spain” decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in 2014. In summary, in the CJEU’s Google Spain decision, upon the former auction announcements covering twenty-year-old which belongs to a person whose real estate has been confiscated due to debts were uploaded to the website of the relevant newspaper, the link to these announcements first appeared, and the person requested such the link to be removed from the search results by claiming the right to be forgotten recognized under Spanish law. Upon this request, it was ruled by the CJE that the dissemination of such information may become unlawful with the passing of time, even if the correct information is published in accordance with the law. It should be noted that in Google Spain decision, “the important role played by the data in public life” and “extensive interest of the general public for the relevant data” are stated as an exception of the right to be forgotten, and it has been ruled that personal data shall be removed from search results unless there are particular reasons defining preponderant interest of the general public.


CJEU, by Google Spain decision, concluded that search engine operators such as Google shall enable the right to be forgotten by deleting the existing links  after a certain period of time, and imposed search engine operators to remove the links related to the websites including this information from search results although information belongs to individuals in original format are published on web sites in accordance with the law.


Even though the right to be forgotten in Turkish law is not yet regulated in any legislation under the name of “right to be forgotten”, but first it has been recognized by the decision of the Civil Court Chambers of High Court of Appeal with 2014/4-56 Doc. No. and 2015/1679 Dec. No. dated 17.06.2015 and subsequently by the Constitutional Court decision wit 2013/5653 application number and dated 03.03.2016. The High Courts have taken the up-to-date criteria as a basis and have accepted that information that has lost this feature may be requested not to be brought up within the scope of the right to be forgotten. Relatively new regulations are set forth within the framework of the Personal Data Protection Law No. 6698. Other measures and principles relating to the deletion of personal data and the protection of personal data are the basis for the right to be forgotten and pave the way for its possible legal ground in legislation.



As mentioned in detail above, with Google Spain decision of the CJEU, Google has launched a web form for applications regarding the right to be forgotten. With the launch of the form, 12,000 applications were made on the first day and 250,000 at the end of one month. Of the nearly 4 million URLs requested to be removed so far, 46% have been accepted by Google.

In case it is requested to use the right to be forgotten on Google from Turkey, the CJEU’s decision does not have the same effect in Turkey, although it has a direct effect on the legal systems of the countries in the European Union, so no direct application in this context may be made from Turkey on the basis of Turkish law. However, if the person was born in a member state of the European Union, it is possible to make the application from Turkey. It should be noted that if the application is accepted by Google, only the results in the Google search engines of the countries in the European Union will be deleted.


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