Wikipedia fought back against Europe's new "right to be forgotten" rule by listing the online encyclopedia's articles removed from search results, snubbing a court ruling that allows people to stop personal information appearing under Internet searches.
Wikipedia isn’t posting active links to pages Google has agreed to remove under the new law, but rather inactive images of the web addresses, or URLs, themselves. They still offer clues, however, to what went off the site, with names and subjects appearing in the URL.
The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the free online encyclopedia, said it was posting the removal notices in the interest of free speech and transparency.
The “right to be forgotten” rule doesn’t mean that sites are scrubbed from the Internet — a difficult task — but that they don’t appear in the search results offered by Google, one of the world’s biggest search engines.
"The disclosure of the link alone is not too helpful as you have no idea what name on the page asked for [the] link to come down," said Lilian Edwards, a professor of Internet law.
Google has faced criticism for notifying publishers that a link to their website has been removed, a method that can draw unwanted attention to the page in question and feed speculation over who made the request. Google says it is necessary to ensure transparency and already notifies the owners of websites that are removed from search results because of copyright infringements.
Wikimedia said on Wednesday that it had received notices from search engines affecting more than 50 links to Wikipedia pages.
"Our concern is that these notifications generate a lot of confusion, and in some ways undercut the request itself by bringing people's names back into the open," Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who heads France's privacy watchdog.
In its first public statement against the ruling from Europe's top court in May confirming that people can stop irrelevant or outdated personal information from appearing under searches for their name, the Wikimedia Foundation said it would publish each notice for the removal of a link to a Wikipedia page.
"Accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review, and no appeals process," wrote Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, on its blog. "The result is an Internet riddled with memory holes — places where inconvenient information simply disappears."
The "right to be forgotten" has divided experts and pitted privacy campaigners against defenders of free speech, who argue that the ruling will lead to people whitewashing their past.
However, search engines are required to take into account the public's interest in knowing certain information about famous or public figures when evaluating removal requests, and the Court of Justice of the European Union said a balance must be struck between the freedom of information and privacy.
Google, which handles around 90 percent of searches in Europe, had received over 90,000 requests under the “right to be forgotten” by July 18 and was accepting over half of them.
Al Jazeera and Reuters