Why Wikipedia Is Worried About Global 'Right To Be Forgotten' Delistings
from the book-of-laughter-and-forgetting dept
As Techdirt reported last year, the problematic “right to be forgotten” — strictly speaking, a right to be delisted from search results — took a really dangerous turn when the French data protection regulator told Google that its orders to delist results should apply globally, not just in France, a view it confirmed twice. The latest development in this saga is the submission of a petition to the French Supreme Court against the global reach of delisting, made by the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia. As its blog post on the move explains:
Although the [French data protection authority] CNIL’s case is directed towards Google, the gradual disappearance of Wikimedia pages from Google search results around the world ultimately impacts the public’s ability to find the invaluable knowledge contained within the Wikimedia projects. Search engines have played an important role in the quest for knowledge — roughly half of Wikipedia visits originate from search engines.
The CNIL’s most recent order, if upheld, threatens the capacity to write and share important information about history, public figures, and more. It undermines the public’s ability to find relevant and neutral information on the internet, and would make it exceedingly difficult for projects like Wikimedia’s to provide information that is important for society.
The fact that half of Wikipedia’s visits come from online searches emphasizes the point that delisting a page from search results effectively removes it from the Internet. The Wikimedia post goes on to make all the obvious — and completely valid — arguments why global delisting is such a bad idea. It also mentions the following:
As part of our efforts to bring more transparency to these requests, when we receive notice that a Wikipedia article was removed from a search engine due to a “right to be forgotten” delisting request, we publish the notice in a public index for the Wikimedia community’s reference.
The page not only includes interesting statistics about delisting notices, but also helpfully provides copies of the notices themselves. From these we can see the Wikipedia articles that are no longer listed in search engines, which allows us to guess the names of those who don’t want information about them to be readily available, and inevitably encourages us to speculate why that might be.