Wikipedia warns that EU legislation will create 'Orwellian memory holes' in the internet

The online encyclopedia has started an online catalogue of the requests it has received to remove links

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The Independent Tech

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has described the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ laws as “censorship” today, warning that "history is a human right and one of the worst things that a person can do is attempt to use force to silence another.”

Speaking at Wikipedia’s annual Wikimedia conference in London, Wales revealed that Google has been asked to remove five links to the encyclopaedia since the EU ruling came into force in May – all of which have been catalogued by Wikipedia’s parent company, the Wikimedia foundation.

Two of the links were to the English version of Wikipedia, including the page on Gerry Hutch, an Irish criminal alleged to be one of the country’s most successful bank robbers, and an image of musician Tom Carstairs in concert.

Links removed to other versions of Wikipedia included two Italian language pages related to figures in the Mafia (namely crime boss Renato Vallanzasca and crime group La Banda della Comasina) and a link to a page from the Dutch version of Wikipedia about amateur chess player Guido den Broeder.

The take down notices do not make it clear which search results have been edited in accordance to the EU. The legislation can only alter searches for specific names, which might have appeared only in relation to an article (say in the comments) rather than being the subject of it.

Wales, who founded Wikipedia in 2001, has been a vocal critic of the EU ruling and said that the online encyclopaedia would be joining social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook in publishing an annual ‘Transparency Report’, detailing requests by government bodies to access user data or take down content.

The first report - covering the period between July 2012 and June 2014 - cites 304 requests to take down content, none of which were granted. These include one request to remove a well-known ‘selfie’ of a monkey in which the owner of the camera argued that he had copyright on the picture. Wikipedia asserted that as he did not take the picture (the monkey did) he did not own the copyright.

Speaking at the conference, Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov warned that the ‘right to be forgotten’ could create an internet riddled with Orwellian “memory holes” where “inconvenient information simply disappears.”

"The European court abandoned its responsibility to protect one of the most important and universal rights: the right to seek, receive, and impart information,” said Tretikov.

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