Google is the search engine giant of the web. No search engine is larger than Google, and nothing is stopping it from growing.
To make that happen, Google wants to continue to crawl and index the web no matter what. The more it crawls and index, the more sources it will have.
As a result, the more useful the search engine will become to its users.
This is why Google won't take any content removal lightly.
Even when it sees websites that violate its rules, like because of using black hat SEO, receiving DMCA notice and so forth, Google won't let those websites and its web pages get permanently de-indexed.
According to Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, Google aims to provide open access to information. But along the way, there are times that content must be removed.
In a blog post, Sullivan said that there are only two reasons that can make Google remove contents from its search results:
Removing Content to Comply With the Law
Google takes this issue seriously.
The company will remove content from its search results, whenever it's legally required to do so.
As a company that operates its businesses on the internet, Google is bound by the law. While laws around privacy and defamation vary from country to country, Google needs to comply, and obliged whenever it is asked to put a content down.
Despite that, Sullivan said that Google holds itself to a high standard when it comes to meeting the legal requirements to remove pages from search results.
But in most cases, the company will follow what it is told.
Google cannot detect all law-breaking content on its own. This is why it relies on people and authorities to to report content that may need to be removed for legal reasons.
Anyone can submit a removal request for content they believe violates the law by filling out a form.
Upon receiving the request, Google will review it to determine whether the content meets the legal requirements for removal. If it does, Google will first try to reach the website owner to inform them about the removal request whenever possible.
Removing Content to Protect Users
Google will follow what the laws requires it to do. But in other cases, Google may also remove content, even when it is "beyond what’s legally required."
In this case, Google may remove content it sees containing highly personal information.
For example, websites that contain sensitive data, like financial or medical information, government-issued IDs, or intimate imagery published without consent. Pages that include contact information alongside personal threats, a form of doxxing, may qualify for removal as well.
"These types of content are information that people generally intend to keep private and can cause serious harm," Sullivan explained, saying that Google will remove this kind of indexed data from its search results.
But again, Google cannot police the web on its own. It needs others to tell it what to do.
This is why Google gives everyone the ability to request the removal of content from search results.
People can also request content get removed from Google search results when pages about themselves appear on sites with exploitative removal policies.
Upon receiving the request, Google will evaluate whether the potential harm the content could cause will outweigh the value it provides to searchers. If it's more damaging, Google will remove it
“In these cases, while people may want to access these sites to find potentially useful information or understand their policies and practices, the pages themselves provide little value or public interest, and might lead to reputational or even physical harm that we aim to help protect against,” explained Sullivan.
Google tries to make useful in these cases. But still, the web is still too large for anyone to police.
Google has a workaround for this.
For example, it can use insights from removal requests to find more pages about the said content in all of its search results. And if it finds more, it can minimize the appearance of that site in its search results in the future.
But still, what Google can do, is limiting the visibility of those sites from its search results. Google has no way of removing a content hosted on sites that it doesn't own.
This is why Sullivan reminds everyone that although Google can remove some content from its search engine results, that content may still exist on the web.