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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: google, wikimedia

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Why Wikipedia Is Worried About Global 'Right To Be Forgotten' Delistings”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Playing chicken

In all seriousness, Google is going to have to just stand up and say “No.” And when they are threatened with fines and garbage, they should just pull out of that country. Yes, it will cause Google to lose a bit of revenue, but I bet not much as the people clamor to get Google back, and the countries like France wise up and figure out that they need Google more than Google needs them. This “right to be forgotten” BS has gone way too far already.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Playing chicken

One wishes they would.
There is so much stupidity targeted at Google because they are successful.
We won’t try to compete, so tax Google for us.
We don’t like that Google does it better, make them less useful for us.
We don’t like that Google gives us traffic for free, and somehow is making money… they must be getting it by stealing it from us… make them pay us.

You do not have a right to be forgotten, you did something noteworthy enough that it was reported on.
You do have a right to do better things and try to show you are not just 1 search result.
If protecting your ‘reputation’ means that we have to edit history, your ‘reputation’ doesn’t outweigh the publics right to know what happened.

Google should play hard ball and leave countries that try to appease the bleeting masses. Let them have Bing.
You don’t have the right to abuse Google & expect them to keep taking it. Imagine the uproar (that we’ve seen repeatedly) when a country demands X, Google complies to the letter of the law, and then has to deal with the complaints it was unfair they stopped doing what we made against the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Emma goldman was a witch says:


NOT, laws designed to make google forget your stupid drunk selfies is not used for that but is instead used by people that have done criminal or board line criminal things to make sure people cant know about it.

Privacy for me not for thee for the state, the rich no one else. all of this is consistent with google and there capo collaboration with all of the states.

people are mostly to narcissistic to write laws.


timmaguire42 (profile) says:

But which Tim Maguire is me?

Just for fun I just googled my name–tim maguire and timothy maguire–and searched through 4 pages without finding a single entry that is me.

So suppose I get a court to order Google to delist me. How are they to make that happen when there are so many other tim maguires out there? How is Google to know which ones are me?

John85851 (profile) says:

This system is asinine and stupid

So let me see if I have this straight: people are filing “right to be forgotten” notices with Google to de-index Wikimedia rather than filing the notice with Wikimedia itself?

As has been said many, many times, the “right to be forgotten” is actually “take me out of Google”. If people really wanted to be forgotten, they would go after the original source of the information, whether that’s a magazine, newspaper, or public website. Then when the website “forgets” the information, there’s nothing for Google (and Bing and Yahoo) to index.
Instead, people are filing claims with Google, which simply breaks the indexed link, but does nothing to remove the original data.

I’ll say it again: this system is asinine and stupid.

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: This system is asinine and stupid

In order to avoid being accused of censorship, the "Right to be Forgotten" system works by just removing links from search engines (generally Google, I don’t know if Bing or Yahoo have gotten many requests). To put it simply, the requesters can’t ask the actual website to remove truthful information. I still call it censorship since it’s government forcing a private entity to stifle their speech (even if that speech is just, "Go there to see what those people said about that person you asked me about.") but, that’s just me.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Right of reply page-- a reasonable compromise?

I share the general opposition to a “right to be forgotten” that would mainly benefit swindlers, stalkers, and dishonest politicians. As a compromise: how about a “right of reply” page which would show up at the top of a subject’s link listing? This would be the subject’s chance to address unfavorable links, eg (1) the link is false; (2) The link is ancient history; (3) the party who put up the link is a sociopath, with links to prove it (something that would be impossible if the sociopath had a “right to be forgotten”); etc

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...