Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, is publicly battling the “censorship” that is part of the EU’s recent “Right to Be Forgotten” law. The law states that EU citizens that do not want their public data to be available online can ask Google to remove these details, and Google must comply in most cases.
This poses a really big problem for a site like Wikipedia that details and documents events in history through the collective encyclopedia.
Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit group that runs Wikipedia) is attempting to fight back against requests made to Google to remove a few Wikipedia links from the Internet. Specifically, those links include some details about gangster Renato Vallanzasca, a photograph of a boy playing a guitar, and a page about Gerry Hutch (a notorious Irish bank robber). Wikimedia argues that these pages are part of history, and they can’t just be removed because of the EU’s new law.
Wales has called the right to be removed law both “censorship” and “tyrannical.” He has told press that Google should use “editorial judgment” to remove or keep things that should remain or not remain on the Internet. Instead, people are determining what should be removed, and that’s just not right, according to Wales. Ever since the EU made the original ruling, Wales has been outspoken about the problems with this new law.
So far, Wikipedia has received 304 requests to take down information on the non-profit’s main encyclopedia website. Wikipedia has not granted one of those requests. The organization still stands behind the statement that attempting to alter or change history is a form of censorship that should not be tolerated.
The group also stated that, “accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review, and no appeals process,” and they aren’t entirely wrong. Many different pages and links have vanished due to the new law, but Wikipedia still holds its ground.
The interesting thing about Wikipedia is that the articles on the site’s pages are edited regularly, and many people contribute to the writing and editing of these articles. So, what makes removing a page completely different from the editing that already happens? The really big difference is that anyone can see who edited what page, why it was edited, and how it was edited. The right to be removed law dictates that links simply be removed, and that could lead to other sites linking to pages that no longer exist without any real explanation – giant holes in the Internet, pages completely gone, things that happened no longer existing.
Some argue that the whole right to be removed movement is a strange one that is, indeed, all about censorship. Others argue that if you want to document history, you should do so in the pages of a tangible book – not through links to pages that can simply be taken down and forgotten. Granted, the right to be forgotten ruling only applies to what Google shows when someone’s name is searched for – pages can’t be taken down as part of this ruling, yet. But f your name shows up when you search for it via Google, you can ask the company to remove those results.