Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales blasts “right to be forgotten” ruling

online censorship

Wikipedia founderJimmy Wales has hit out at the removal of links to the online encyclopaedia from Google under the recent "right to be forgotten" ruling because it denies people access to important information.

Speaking at a press conference held to mark the release of the Wikimedia Foundation's transparency report, Wales spoke about the threat the EU's ruling could pose to freedom of expression and the company's stance on censorship.

"Everyone everywhere should be able to have access to the sum of all knowledge, however this is only possible if they can contribute and participate in these projects without reservation," he said. "This means the right to create content including controversial content."

Wales is also a member of the advisory council set up to help Google comply with the ruling, which allows people to request that information deemed "irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate" is removed from search results.

"This ruling has unfortunately compromised the public's right to information and freedom of expression," added executive director Lila Tretikov. "Links, including those to Wikipedia itself, may now be quietly, silently deleted with no transparency, no notice, no judicial review and no appeals process.

"We cannot build the sum of all human knowledge without the world's truthful sources, based on pre-edited histories."

A total of five notices have been received by the Wikimedia Foundation from Google, it was revealed, with Geoff Brigham, General Council, stating the removal of these links would have "direct and crucial repercussions".

"The decisions are made without any real proof, there's no judicial review, there's no public explanation, and there's no appeals process," he continued. "Yet the decision allows censorship of truthful information, where one would expect such judicial safeguards."

Brigham also surmised that certain search engines would opt for suppression over the alternative in this situation, so as to avoid potential liability.

The ruling has received a backlash from many publications and sites since it came into effect, including BBC writer Robert Peston, whose blog post about chief executive Stanley O'Neal leaving investment bank Merrill Lynch was removed from Google search results. The UK governmenthasalso described the ruling as "the wrong position."

"In our opinion, we're on a path to secret online sanitation of truthful information," the panel concluded.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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