Last week, the Wikimedia Foundation began receiving notices that certain links to Wikipedia content would no longer appear in search results served to people in Europe. This is the result of a recent court decision, Google Spain v. AEPD and Mario Costeja González, that granted individuals the ability to request that search engines “de-index” content about them under the so-called “right to be forgotten” doctrine.[1]

Denying people access to relevant and neutral information runs counter to the ethos and values of the Wikimedia movement. The Wikimedia Foundation has made a statement opposing the scope of the judgment and its implications for free knowledge.

As of July 18, Google has received more than 91,000 removal requests involving more than 328,000 links; of these, more than 50% of the URLs processed have been removed. More than fifty of these links were to content on Wikipedia.

We only know about these removals because the involved search engine company chose to send notices to the Wikimedia Foundation. Search engines have no legal obligation to send such notices. Indeed, their ability to continue to do so may be in jeopardy. Since search engines are not required to provide affected sites with notice, other search engines may have removed additional links from their results without our knowledge. This lack of transparent policies and procedures is only one of the many flaws in the European decision.

As part of our commitment to transparency and our opposition to censorship, WMF has created a dedicated page where we will be posting notices about attempts to remove links to Wikimedia under this authority. The Wikimedia projects provide informational, educational, and historic value to the world. Their content should not be hidden from Internet users seeking truthful and relevant information.

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel

[1] The decision is here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:62012CJ0131.