wikipedia fights forgotten
August 8, 2014

Wikipedia Founder Vows To Fight The Censorship Of “Right To Be Forgotten” Regulations

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Vowing to fight what they call the “censorship” of “right to be forgotten” laws, the organization that runs Wikipedia has started publicly posting the notices it receives when search engines intend to remove links from their results, various media outlets reported on Wednesday.

According to Alex Hern of The Guardian, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales revealed that Google had been asked to remove five links from the online encyclopedia over the past week. Those notices have been posted online by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization which operates the website, he added.

The pages in question include an image of a guitar player, a page about former criminal Gerry Hutch, a page about the Italian gangster Renato Vallanzasca, and a page about an amateur chess player, Hern and BBC News reported. Speaking at a London press conference, Wales had harsh words for those who would use the “right to be forgotten” verdict to remove Wikipedia links.

“History is a human right and one of the worst things that a person can do is attempt to use force to silence another,” he said. “I’ve been in the public eye for quite some time. Some people say good things, some people say bad things… that’s history, and I would never use any kind of legal process like to try to suppress it.”

In all, the Wikimedia Foundation revealed that more than 50 links to its website had been affected by the requests, including an English-language page about Hutch, a Dublin-born businessman who was jailed in the 1980s; an Italian-language page about a group of criminals known as Banda della Comasina; and an Italian-language page about Vallanzasca, an Italian who was spent time in jail after being involved in kidnappings and bank robberies.

“We only know about these removals because the involved search engine company chose to send notices to the Wikimedia Foundation," the organization’s lawyers wrote in a blog. “Search engines have no legal obligation to send such notices. Indeed, their ability to continue to do so may be in jeopardy.”

“Since search engines are not required to provide affected sites with notice, other search engines may have removed additional links from their results without our knowledge. This lack of transparent policies and procedures is only one of the many flaws in the European decision,” they added.

The revelations came as part of the Foundation’s first-ever transparency report, and according to The Huffington Post UK, the organization divided the requests into three different categories: user data, content and takedown, and copyright infringements.

Over the past two years, there were 56 requests for user data. Fifteen of those came from government sources, and information was produced on eight of those occasions, with a total of 11 user accounts being affected. In comparison, Google received more than 27,000 requests for user data from July 2012 and June 2013, producing information in over 17,000 of those cases, the media outlet noted.

The report also revealed that the Wikimedia Foundation received 304 requests for content to be altered or taken down from June 2012 through July 2014, with 32 of those requests originating in the UK and 105 from the US. None of those requests were granted. However, during that same time, 58 requests were made for takedowns relating to copyright (four from the UK and 31 from the US), with 41 percent of them being granted.

The European Court of Justice ruled in May that search engines such as Google had an obligation to remove links containing sensitive information if asked to do so, and that users who wanted those websites to remove personal data could file a request directly with the operator of the search engine.

Google received its first requests under the new ruling later on that month, and at a meeting with EU regulators in Brussels last month, the company revealed that it had been contacted by 91,000 individuals covering a total of 328,000 individual URLs, and that over half of those requests had already been processed.

In enacting the “right to be forgotten” laws, “the European court abandoned its responsibility to protect one of the most important and universal rights: the right to seek, receive, and impart information,” Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov said, according to Ars Technica. “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.”

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