Wikipedia Speaks Out Against The Right To Be Forgotten

Josh Evans Contributor
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Several top officers of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind Wikipedia and other projects, sharply criticized the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” court ruling at a London press conference Wednesday morning.

Founder Jimmy Wales, CEO Lila Tretikov and the foundation’s general counsel Geoff Brigham condemned the ruling as censorship and also introduced the foundation’s transparency report, which details how the organization has handled various takedown requests, TechCrunch reports.

Wales noted that restricting access to content may discourage writers from approaching more controversial subject matter.

“The Wikimedia project, including Wikipedia, are founded on the belief that everyone everywhere can be able to have access to the sum of all knowledge, however this is only possible if people can contribute and participate in these projects without reservation – this means their right to create content, including controversial content, should be protected,” Wales said.

Tretikov further noted that censored search engines would limit the ability of Wikipedia contributors to thoroughly research, and even called demands to remove content a “direct threat to our mission.”

“Links, including those to Wikipedia itself, may now be quietly, silently deleted with no transparency, no justice, no judicial review and no appeals process,” she said.

Although Wales was sympathetic to those whose reputations have been affected by inaccurate or irrelevant information, he insisted that the law was not the appropriate solution. Instead, he placed responsibility on the affected individual to point out the truth, as well as on publishers and search engines to display accurate information.

“The best answer to bad speech is more speech. I think he should post a page detailing what his views actually are and how he’s been represented there,” Wales said.

Wikipedia has already been affected by the court’s ruling, receiving its first notice from Google earlier this month, The Guardian reports. Since then, Wikipedia has received 5 notices covering the de-indexing of over 50 links to various articles.

However, in the transparency report unveiled at the press conference, the Wikimedia Foundation demonstrated its efforts to preserve both content and user privacy. According to the report, of the 56 requests made for user information, the foundation granted only 8, all of which were civil or criminal subpoenas, as opposed to the more common informal requests sent.

The foundation also worked to preserve content, rejecting all requests for alteration and takedown, with the exception of 24 out of the 58 requests filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

“What drives Wikipedians all over the world are commitments to our core values, including transparency, privacy and freedom of expression,” Wales said.

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Josh Evans