Free Speech

Congratulations to the Lumen Database!


I've praised the Lumen Database often before, because it has been indispensable in my research on Internet takedown and deindexing requests. A lot of the frauds and forgeries that I've found, I've found through Lumen; likewise, many of the legitimate anti-libel injunctions that I mention in my forthcoming Anti-Libel Injunctions article at Penn came via Lumen. Likewise, many people who have studied DMCA takedown attempts have relied heavily on Lumen.

I'm therefore delighted to pass along this report about a huge new grant that Lumen just got:

Illuminating the Flows and Restrictions of Content Online

Arcadia to support expansion of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center Lumen Database

Lumen, a unique resource collecting and studying millions of removal requests for online content, is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.5 million grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, to expand and improve its database and research efforts.

From well-publicized takedowns from foreign governments, political campaigns and celebrities to more obscure requests from private entities and individuals, modern online platforms and search engines must regularly address third-parties' efforts to remove content and links. Lumen provides a way for the public and its representatives – including academic researchers, journalists and other stakeholders – to understand trends in demands for content removal and their outcomes in ways that balance public disclosure and privacy rights and serve the greater public interest.

"Lumen has seen tremendous growth and interest in the database over the past few years, receiving over two million new notices in the last year alone," says Adam Holland, the Project Manager for Lumen at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. "And in the same time period, more and more exceptional research relying on Lumen's data, and with substantial real-world impact, has been published, with more to come soon."

Conceived and developed in 2002 by Wendy Seltzer, one of the inaugural Berkman Center Fellows, Lumen's efforts initially focused on removal requests submitted under the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As the Internet and its usage has grown and evolved, so has Lumen, and its database now includes complaints of all varieties, including trademark, defamation, private information, as well as domestic and international court orders. Over the course of the next three years, Lumen will increase the number of institutions and platforms that submit removal requests; refine the project's online presence and underlying infrastructure to make it easier for researchers to use; conduct and facilitate further research on its data; and host a series of multi-stakeholder convenings to help better understand the details of the removal request ecosystem and to develop a set of best practices regarding those requests and transparency regarding them.

"Arcadia's generous grant represents a quantum leap for Lumen and opens up a wide array of new possibilities for the project," says Lumen's principal investigator Christopher Bavitz, WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center. "I'm incredibly excited for the next three years and beyond."

The Lumen project team works with Internet publishers, platforms, and service providers to shed light on takedown requests they receive that would otherwise go unseen. Currently, Google and Twitter are Lumen's two largest submitters of notices by volume. As part of the planned expansion supported by Arcadia's grant, Lumen will extend the reach of its network of partners to provide new transparency to even more takedown notices from more sources. The increase in the volume of data Lumen anticipates receiving in the next few years further underscores the importance of ensuring that the project's database is equipped to easily accept all incoming takedown notices and that working with the database is intuitive and manageable for researchers, notice submitters and other interested parties.

Lumen's database has supported critical research over the years by both legal and academic scholars, as well as journalists…. Arcadia's support will make it possible for Lumen to expand its support of such research, as well as to expand Lumen's core team in order to conduct more of its own research and writing.

About the Berkman Klein Center

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities.

About Arcadia Fund

Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment. Arcadia also supports projects that promote open access and all of its awards are granted on the condition that any materials produced are made available for free online. Since 2002, Arcadia has awarded more than $663 million to projects around the world. More information at

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  1. While this is a great asset to identify fraudulent (forged) court orders or court orders issued by clueless/ inexperienced judges, I’m starting to wonder where personal privacy ends.

    Does it need to be public knowledge that a private citizen asks a private company to de-index certain stories/entries (again not talking about the fraudulent stuff)?

    Or has personal privacy already died?

    1. “Does it need to be public knowledge”

      Ayupp, that’s a straw man.

    2. If the force of the public (via the law) is behind it, then it is definitionally a subject of public interest. If you want to persuade a platform to take something down without involving the legal system, I am adamantly supportive of your right to keep that a secret. But if you want to employ the law against another party, it had better be for reasons you can defend publicly.

  2. “Does it need to be public knowledge that a private citizen asks a private company to de-index certain stories/entries (again not talking about the fraudulent stuff)?”

    He’s asking them to de-index information that’s already available on the internet, right? What does that have to do with personal privacy?

    1. They pretend it’s a compromise. “It’s not the data itself, we would never ask to remove actual data!” They just want to make it impossible to find unless you already know where it is. Heaven knows what their next compromise would be. “We don’t want to remove the data, we just want to make it illegal to read the data.”

    2. You missed the first part. . . “Does it need to be public knowledge. . . . ”

      I’m talking about Lumens.

      Do they really need to track these things?

      1. Do you need to comment? Did this article need posting? Did Lumens need a press release?

        Very little *needs* doing. Methinks you are really trying to pretend to be objective to pretend you aren’t a busybody who thinks there should be no other busybodies.

  3. Shouldn’t a database of court removal orders be known as… (wait for it)… a Lemen database rather than a Lumen?

    1. Only in California.

  4. What’s holding up Short Circuit?

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