Wikipedia Shows Content Google ‘Forgets’

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 W...
Wikipedia Shows Content Google ‘Forgets’
Written by Chris Crum
  • 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

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