Google has received more than 41,000 requests in four days from Europeans wanting the company to remove embarrassing information about them from its search results, according to people close to the company.
The rush of requests – averaging about seven every minute – comes after Google on Friday started offering a form for individuals to ask it to delete certain personal information when their name is searched online.
Google introduced the takedown mechanism after the European Court of Justice ruled last month that individuals have the right to request the removal of search results linking to "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" personal data – even when the information is published legally.
The latest figures, which are correct as of the end of Monday, suggest that people have continued to bombard the search engine with removal requests since Friday, when the form became available and was used 12,000 times.
Google has received requests from across the EU, with a particularly high proportion coming from Germany and the UK. Among the requests was one from a man who tried to kill his family and wanted a news article about the event removed, a person familiar with the matter said.
The US company has said that it will examine every request against the criteria laid down by the court – employing humans, not algorithms, to make the judgments. Links are due to start disappearing after the middle of June.
Larry Page, Google's chief executive officer, warned in an interview with the Financial Times last week that Europe's landmark "right to be forgotten" ruling risked stifling innovation and strengthening the hand of repressive governments looking to restrict online communications.
However, many internet experts believe that the European court's attempt to give individuals more control over their personal information will fail, because of the global, interconnected structure of the internet.
Google is not planning to remove information from the US version of its search engine, meaning that Europeans will still be able to go there to search for information that has been removed from their local version.