Wikipedia announced Wednesday that more than 50 of its links and Web pages have been removed from Google search in the European Union under the EU's controversial “right to be forgotten” law.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) removed the links from EU-based searches over five requests that it had accepted, although the search giant does not disclose requests that it denies. The Wikimedia Foundation, which administers the “free encyclopedia,” decried the takedowns as “unforgivable” in a post where it published the links and articles that were affected.
Two of the Wikipedia items removed from Google searches were from the English-language version of the site. One is an article about Gerry Hutch, a cab driver considered one of Ireland's most successful bank robbers; the other is an image, reportedly of a musician named Tom Carstairs.
Two Wikipedia entries removed on the site’s Italian version include one on Renato Vallanzasca, a notorious Italian mobster currently serving four life sentences, and another on La Banda della Comasina, the name given by Italian media in the 1970s to a crime syndicate known for robbery, kidnapping and drug and weapon trafficking.
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The majority of the 50 links removed refer to a Dutch amateur chess player named Guido den Broeder, who was in a dispute over Wikipedia’s terms and conditions. Den Broeder reportedly was editing his own pages as well as those of organizations and people he was associated with.
Wikipedia said in a post that revealed the full list of removal notices that the people who made the requests were not necessarily those whom the articles described.
“We do not know who requested each removal,” Wikipedia said, promising to update the list as more requests are approved. “People should not assume that a subject of an article made the request, since others may have the opportunity to make such a demand for removal.”
The EU law states that search engines must give citizens the ability to request removal of “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive” personal details from their results, and that sites like Google must comply with the request.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told International Business Times in May that he thought the law was “ridiculous” and showed how European privacy law was fundamentally flawed.
"A very strict reading of the law leads to this very bizarre conclusion that a newspaper can publish information and yet Google can't link to it – it makes no sense at all," Wales told IBTimes UK, before taunting European regulators who wished to enforce the laws on Wikipedia. “Good luck coming after us.”
Last week, a British panel called the law “unreasonable,” and said the EU court was wrong to force search engines to determine what information should be kept and what should be removed over “right to be forgotten” requests.