Wikipedia Shows Content Google ‘Forgets’

By: Chris Crum - August 6, 2014

It was recently reported that Google is removing links to Wikipedia articles from search results in Europe thanks to the new “right to be forgotten“. The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, has now put out a statement.

Do you think the “right to be forgotten” law is going too far? Do you agree with the concept at all? Should Wikipedia articles be vanishing from Google results? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The foundation says it has received multiple notices of intent to remove certain Wikipedia content from European search results, and that to date, the notices would affect over 50 links directing readers to Wikimedia sites.

“The decision does not mandate that search engines disclose link censorship,” says recently appointed Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Lila Tretikov. “We appreciate that some companies share our commitment to transparency and are providing public notice. This disclosure is essential for understanding the ruling’s negative impacts on all available knowledge.”

What a fun time for Tretikov to be taking over, by the way. The foundation is not only dealing with this, but also with black hat paid editing.

In terms of search engine disclosure of censorship, Google displays the following message at the bottom of search results pages:

Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more.

The Wikimedia Foundation is keeping a running tab of notices it receives from search engines. One of them is about a link for a Wikipedia article on Gerry Hutch, which according to the article is about “an Irish convicted criminal, alleged to have been one of Ireland’s most successful bank robbers.”

Splendidly showing how ridiculous the right to be forgotten ruling is, there’s now a section of the Wikipedia article dedicated to informing users that the URL was requested to be removed from search engines. It says:

Due to a request under data protection laws of Europe, it was revealed in August 2014 that Google has removed the Wikipedia page on Hutch on some search results from European versions of Google.

I imagine this will be pretty standard on affected articles. It will be interesting to see how crowded the page showing them all gets.

“We only know about these removals because the involved search engine company chose to send notices to the Wikimedia Foundation,” the foundation says in its statement. “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.”

Google further examined the complexity of complying with the decision in a questionnaire from regulators. The search engine has dates set up throughout the fall, for experts to discuss ideas and concepts for how this should all be implemented. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales will appear in Madrid next month at the first of these meetings.

The Wikimedia Foundation has also released its first-ever transparency report, disclosing that in two years, it has received 304 general content removal requests, zero of which were granted. That seems like a surprisingly low number of requests, doesn’t it?

“The Wikimedia Foundation is deeply committed to supporting an open and neutral space, where the users themselves decide what belongs on the Wikimedia projects,” write Legal Counsel Michelle Paulson and General Counsel Geoff Brigham.

Additionally, it says only 14.3% of requests for user data were granted because many were found to be illegal or not up to the foundation’s standards. In other cases, the foundation just didn’t have any information to give. You can find the report here.

Gizmodo points to an interesting thing in the transparency report showing that the foundation denied a photographer’s requests to remove pictures of a monkey because it contends that the monkey is the copyright holder. In the report, the foundation says:

A photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A female crested black macaque monkey got ahold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits. The pictures were featured in an online newspaper article and eventually posted to Commons. We received a takedown request from the photographer, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs. We didn’t agree, so we denied the request.

A photo of Babe Ruth’s famous called shot is also among the content to have been requested for takedown. The foundation cites fair use in its denial on that one, for “its extraordinary value in illustrating the famous moment and the educational purpose it serves.”

Is Wikipedia taking the right approach to takedowns? Is Google? Let us know what you think.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Eric Bischoff

    I thought the Internet was supposed to be free/neutral. Now we are allowing Govts to dictate and corporations to police/censor. Even copyright laws need to be modernized. This is out of control and headed in the wrong direction. I sense more foul play, more censorship, more preferential treatments, more under the table deals. In the end we lose.

  • Ron Angel

    Wikipedia should have a “Google takedown page” where all Google
    takedown requests to them are published in full, for the public to view as
    these presumably are legal documents and therefore in the public domain. If not
    the court case opposing it should be very interesting. This will also have the
    effect of less people asking for takedowns because people that did not know
    maybe alerted by the page, which would become one of the most viewed on the
    web.

  • AUSI

    This is ridiculous. If people have a past and the recording of it is accurate – then they have no right to have it disappear.
    Google superb for search.
    Wikipedia – the best reference on earth – essential for every thinking individual – knowledge is power. Wikipedia is powerful and GOOD

  • Joons

    Simple just use google.com and hope the translate works OK!
    Good OLD europe still behind the times and out of touch
    I’m an ex-european and very proud of it!

  • hackedoff

    “Splendidly showing how ridiculous the right to be forgotten ruling is,
    there’s now a section of the Wikipedia article dedicated to informing
    users that the URL was requested to be removed from search engines”

    Glad to see that the editorial staff dont hold themselves back from telling us what they think before they ask us what we think.

    As I have previously said on similar listing THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE A RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ON THIS ARE EUROPEANS. I do find it indicative of the arrogance people outside of the EU that they feel they have a right to comment on how the EU deals with the internet.

    Americans dont expect to be told what they should do or not do on their own soil.

    Personally I feel I live a more secure and free life in Europe than I ever would in America – we dont have ridiculous laws that enable people to buy automatic weapons, we dont have a state like Texas where kids who have only just become teenagers learn to use guns – all because of the American concept of Freedom. Here in Europe we dont find it diffcult to tell people that their personal freedom does not extend to the point of owning a gun. Not to mention the NSA – or the tolerance of some really nasty extremists.

    Freedom is not an absolute despite the simplified picture that America loves to paint – for instance if you allow extremists to spread racial hatred without any restriction then you deny those people who are the target of that hatred their freedom and rights – there is no simple solution and there is no such thing as absolute freedom – you give up some freedom here to maintain freedom there, at the base of any concept of freedom is the desire of different individuals to pursue goals that they believe are legitimate and since different people think in different ways then freedom will always be a compromise.

    Please I am fed up of a US led debate and moralising campaign about Europe’s position on the internet – come and preach to us when you have your own house in order – otherwise please mind your own business and respect European laws apply to Europe its our soverignty. – its not your issue and its not your debate.

    Not every European will agree with the position but thats a discussion between Europeans its not for US concerns to go throwing their weight in.

    I am getting really hacked off with this the arrogance of this grates strongly.

    • Joons

      Enjoy your censored life

      • hackedoff

        Thanks I will – Europe is not perfect by any means but generally we get a good balance – I can live with it. I dont think we are any more censored than the US and we do seem to have the ability to see shades of grey instead of just black and white.

        Anyway I was not saying I think the EU is wrong or right on this issue, my point is that it is a European issue for Europeans to worry about.

  • http://antonsenillustrasjon.no Espen Antonsen

    Anything Wikipedia is putting out there that also can be found on encyclpedia britannica or any other important lexica website that is information seen as never to be forgotten should obviosly be found on a google search. But why does google link only to wikipedia? Why not also the other big lexica websites out there. (like http://www.britannica.com/ or http://www.encyclopedia.com/ or http://snl.no/) Wikipedia has also been known for missinformation so a certain forgetting range wouldnt hurt. But I think google and other search engines could safely link to any encyclopedia website as long as its factbased and are controlled by ethical systems that only show information that dont make trouble even though its not forgotten!

  • http://www.usa-hero.com/ jaymista

    I am not sure I understand the situation. Google intends not to include the links going to all or some of Wikipedia pages in their search results? I have two websites that I designed to give help to students doing essays. I include lots of Wikipedia links on my pages for the students but they also have the option of doing a search on their own and we find the format of the Wikipedia pages is excellent for giving help to students. They really like the way the pages are set up. Well, anyway, I think such Wikipedia links should be continued to be included in Google results. I hope I have this all wrong and that is not a problem at all.

  • Kurt Pedersen

    Some of the Google top level decision-takers has to be “morons”!

  • David

    The ruling allows that the information remain online and available to the entire world, but you just cannot point to it. Now there’s a law that someone forgot to think through first. When I see such stories, I tend to tweet the forgotten page links. Besides, the Internet is global so blocking access from one portal does nothing for those who backup 2 spaces on their local google and replace it with “com” where they get non-blocked access.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    I thought only hardline communist and dictatorships could censor free speech.

  • Sunshine8152

    Since we’re intent on “dumbing down” America, sure, leave Wikipedia open to the world so we’ll all be on the “same Page” ….. NOT! Unless there is someone, somewhere checking the information posted and “changed” on Wikipedia for accuracy I don’t think it much matters if it’s available or not. What on earth did people do before Wikipedia? Oh yeah, they went to Encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. These sources are still available free on the web ; )