Wikimedia: Right to be forgotten results in 'Internet riddled with memory holes'

Google removes over 50 links to Wikipedia from search results in Europe

Google has removed over 50 links to Wikipedia from its search results on European domains as a consequence of the EU's "right to be forgotten" ruling which, according to Wikimedia, "punches holes in free knowledge."

The foundation behind Wikipedia last week started receiving notices that certain links to Wikipedia content would no longer appear in search results served to people in Europe, Wikimedia's general counsel Geoff Brigham and legal counsel Michelle Paulson wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

The links to Wikipedia were removed as a direct result of a May ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The decision gave EU citizens the right to compel search engines to remove results for queries that include a person's name, if the results are "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive."

Wikimedia so far received five notices for search result removals from Google, covering more than 50 links pointing to the Dutch, English and Italian versions of Wikipedia, it said. Most of the deleted search results referred to Dutch Wikipedia editor discussion pages and pages with formal mediation between editors.

Google said in the notifications sent to Wikimedia that, due to privacy concerns, it was not able to disclose why it removed the results for a certain name query.

"In many cases the affected queries do not relate to the name of any person mentioned prominently on the page," Google said, adding that in some cases the name may only appear in the comments section.

For example, two links pointing to the English version of Wikipedia were removed by Google: a link to a photo with the title "Tom Carstairs in concert" and a link to a page about an Irish bank robber called Gerry Hutch.

This might initially imply that Carstairs and Hutch themselves requested the links to be removed. However, when searching for their names using a European Google search domain like google.nl, the links still appear. This suggests that the links were removed for name searches other than "Tom Carstairs" and "Gerry Hutch."

A link to an Italian article about the Banda della Comasina, a Milan group that was involved in robberies, kidnappings and drug trafficking in the 70s, was also removed. A link to a related article about Renato Vallanzasca, the leader of the group, also doesn't appear as a result for certain queries. However, it does not appear that Vallanzasca filed the takedown request, since the links appear under searches on his name.

According to Wikimedia's executive director, Lila Tretikov, the CJEU's decision is "undermining the world's ability to freely access accurate and verifiable records about individuals and events," she said in a blog post.

By implementing a crude right to be forgotten the court "abandoned its responsibility to protect one of the most important and universal rights: the right to seek, receive, and impart information," Tretikov said.

"As a consequence, accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review, and no appeals process. The result is an internet riddled with memory holes -- places where inconvenient information simply disappears," she said.

The ruling does not mandate that search engines disclose link censorship. But Wikimedia will be posting notices for each indefinite removal of Wikipedia search results on a dedicated page, she said.

Wikimedia's critique on the ruling echoes others who have similar grievances with the court's decision.

Google for instance already described the guidelines for removing query results as "very vague and subjective," and found that some people who are seeking to scrub their histories from the Web are being economical with the truth when making their requests.

Moreover, a U.K. House of Lords subcommittee has called the right to be forgotten unworkable and misguided. It advised the U.K. government to fight any possible adoption of the right to be forgotten into future EU data protection regulation.

Meanwhile, European data protection authorities met with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to discuss the ruling. The authorities aim to issue guidelines to ensure a consistent implementation of the ruling this fall.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityprivacycopyrightlegalwikipediaintellectual propertyWikimedia Foundation

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?