Automated requests were incorrectly made by Microsoft to Google claiming the BBC and other websites were infringing their copyright.
Microsoft’s system also automatically requested the removal of content which was created by Wikipedia and CNN an others.
Microsoft use software which crawls the internet to establish where people are attempting to illegally share Microsoft software. As Google has the BBC on its approved list its pages were not affected but other sites were affected. Sites such as AMC Theatres and Real Clear Politics, who were also wrongly accused, had pages taken down from Google search results.
Under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) copyright owners and exclusive licensees can make requests to websites including Google for content to be removed meaning, in the case of Google that the content will not appear in the Google search rankings.
The requests sent to Google in July seemed to single out articles and pages containing the number 45. In the case of the BBC a webpage following the 45 day of the Olympic torch relay and with Wikipedia it was an article on the end of Caesar’s civil war which ended in 45BC.
There have been calls for companies who wrongfully file takedown notices to be punished. TorrentFreak said that “Microsoft and other rightsholders are censoring large parts of the internet, often completely unfounded, and there is absolutely no-one to hold them responsible”.