Forget a Wikipedia Page? Good Luck with That, Europe.


That one missing puzzle piece was there just a minute ago.

The European Union's so-called "Right to be Forgotten" Internet censorship program continues apace, resulting in tens of thousands of demands for Google to stop linking to certain pages in search results. Google has agreed to remove the links in about half the cases.

As a reminder: This system doesn't actually remove any pages themselves. All the news stories or blog posts or whatever has ticked people off are still up there on the Internet. They just won't show up for searches in Google's European search engine. That's why this one takedown request highlighted by The Guardian is particularly dumb. Somebody has demanded that Google remove a link to a Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia page itself isn't going anywhere. It's just that a Google search won't show the page as a result. Given the popularity of Wikipedia itself, it's a type of censorship that is not only petty and self-serving, but will also probably accomplish little.

Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales is nevertheless incensed, as well he should be:

"In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible 'right' to censor what other people are saying," Wales has said. "You do not have a right to use the law to prevent Wikipedia editors from writing truthful information, nor do you have a right to use the law to prevent Google from publishing truthful information. Wikipedia can and should work hard to do a good job, just as Google can and should work hard to do a good job."

On Thursday, Google revealed that France, with 17,500 requests, had made more demands for changes to search results than any other European nation. Germany had made 16,500 requests, and 12,000 requests originated in the UK. Some 8,000 requests came from Spain, 7,500 from Italy, and 5,500 from the Netherlands.

By 18 July, Google had received 91,000 takedown requests in total, relating to 300,000 pages. Its privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, revealed it had refused around 32% of them, asked for more information on 15%, and removed 53%.

None of the coverage indicates which page is being affected by the takedown. The Guardian ends with a reminder that these takedown requests don't have to have any relationship with the accuracy of the content, just that the "material was deemed to be out of date, no longer relevant or excessive," according to whatever guidelines the government and tech companies put in place, which of course, probably bear little resemblance to what the public at large may consider "no longer relevant."