Wikimedia Blames ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ for Missing Links

In the wake of the "Right to be Forgotten" ruling in Europe, the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that operates online encyclopedia Wikipedia, says it has received multiple notices of intent to remove Wikipedia content from European search results.

In fact, in a blog post, Wikimedia says Google has received more than 91,000 removal requests involving more than 328,000 links as of July 18 and more than 50 percent of the URLs processed have been removed.

And, as of August 6, Wikimedia says the notices affect more than 50 links directing readers to Wikipedia sites.

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Within some of the notices, Google assures Wikimedia that the pages on the list have not been blocked entirely and will continue to appear to individuals that are not included under the "European data protection law requests."

Wikimedia notes it only knows about these removals because the search engine company sent notices to Wikimedia and because there is no legal obligation to send such notices it is possible other search engines may have removed additional links without Wikimedia's knowledge.

In another post, Lila Tretikov, executive director of Wikimedia, says the organization will be posting notices for each indefinite removal of Wikipedia search results.

Wikimedia has made its opposition to the ruling clear. The post says the European court "abandoned its responsibility to protect one of the most important and universal rights: the right to seek, receive and impart information."

As a result, Wikimedia says, "accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review and no appeals process. The result is an internet riddled with memory holes -- places where inconvenient information simply disappears."

In comments on the Wikipedia blog, some Wikipedia contributors have expressed their own opposition to Wikimedia's stance.

"Once again, this is a decision that impacts the search engine algorithm which is not some impartial mathematical representation of the truth but is already heavily manipulated by many big commercial and state actors from around the world (from record labels to law enforcement)," writes one.

Another says Wikimedia's statement lacks the European perspective.

"This is by no means a sign of censorship, but rather one of compliance to European law," the commenter writes. "I would expect the Wikimedia Foundation to respect the law. Instead you announce that you have put up a pillory-style page you consider an act of transparency, listing all those cases that you have become aware of, which...runs the risk of being against the same said law. I think this is rather disappointing because it demonstrates the deep divide between the U.S. and Europe on these issues."