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Jimmy Wales condemns “wide-sweeping Internet censorship ruling” from EU over Google search

Jimmy Wales has joined a number of detractors questioning an EU ruling which was made this week regarding Google search results, with the founder of Wikipedia calling the court's verdict "astonishing".

If you missed this one, it involves the EU's highest court making a decision on the "right to be forgotten" in the case of Mario Costeja González, a Spaniard who discovered that when he googled his own name, articles cropped up pertaining to the auctioning of his house to cover debts he owed back in the nineties.

González claimed that the availability of this information to the public at large constituted an infringement of his privacy rights – and requested that Google should remove the search results, as the matter had been resolved a long time ago and the results were now "irrelevant".

And the court agreed, with the EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, stating in a Facebook post that the ruling was "a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans," and that data "belongs to the individual, not to the company. And unless there is a good reason to retain this data, an individual should be empowered – by law – to request erasure of this data."

However, Google called the verdict "disappointing" and said it would have to closely examine the implications. It has argued in the past that removal of data in such a way amounts to censorship of the Internet – a point freedom of speech activists have been quick to jump on, along with Jimmy Wales.

Talking to the BBC (Radio 5 live), Wales called the verdict "one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen."

"If you really dig into it, it doesn't make a lot of sense. They're asking Google... you can complain about something and just say it's irrelevant, and Google has to make some kind of a determination about that. That's a very hard and difficult thing for Google to do – particularly if it's at risk of being held legally liable if it gets it wrong in some way."

He continued: "Normally we would think whoever is publishing the information, they have the primary responsibility - Google just helps us to find the things that are online."

Wales concluded of the ruling: "I suspect this isn't going to stand for very long."

Darren Allan
Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.