National NewsMedia Council launches industry survey on practice of ‘de-indexing’

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The National NewsMedia Council is seeking input from Canadian editors, publishers, and journalists, from coast to coast to coast, on the emerging issue of ‘deindexing’.

Our reason for undertaking this survey project is pressing: over the past few months, we have received several complaints from members of the public who, for various reasons, have requested that news organizations remove individual news articles from online search engines. Given the rapid pace, impact, and long-life of digital news, (our organization recognizes) the need to better understand how these kinds of requests are addressed within newsrooms before we can develop an effective set of suggestions for the industry. To be clear - our objective for this survey is not to assess individual newsroom practices but to learn about deindexing requests in Canadian newsrooms.

Deindexing, which is sometimes referred to as ‘delinking’ or ‘delisting’, is the process of removing a webpage from a search engine’s results. It is often carried out by adding a piece of code to the webpage that “tells” the search engine not to include the page in its search results. Deindexing differs, it should be noted, from unpublishing or taking down pages. A deindexed page, for example, still exists on a publication’s website but cannot be found via search engines.

Preliminary research indicates that newsrooms are receiving an influx of requests from readers to remove or deindex news articles from search engines. Reasons vary, but often requests to deindex articles come with a claim of some kind of personal damage. Though they may rarely be granted, the requests do not appear to be going away anytime soon.

To that end, we believe that examining this issue stretches beyond developing basic standards, to address questions of media ethics, trust, and how modern newsrooms interact with their readers and society.

Your responses will help us consider a best practices vantage point from which we may consider complaints and educate the public on what constitutes fair and ethical journalism.

We hope the results will deepen our understanding of what this issue means to association members, and be of value to newsrooms as they find themselves working toward their own policies.

We cannot do this without you. You can access a copy of our survey here. Your responses are anonymous.

Thank you for your support,

National NewsMedia Council Staff