The Signpost


Je ne suis pas Google

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"I understood and, to some extent, sympathized" "I opted to ... take the story ... to the press. ... the ex-convicts, ... became more famous" "that kind of happy outcome" These statements do not really hang together.

And here we go giving the story more publicity. What is the message here? "Mess with Wikipedia at your peril?"

I have no objection to putting up a stout defence of content, as in this case and the French defence ministry case. I do object to grave dancing, and to using Wikipedia as a bully pulpit to defend material which would never survive our own policies.

And contributors might like to remember that "here" does not mean the United States to the majority of Wikipedia editors.

All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 12:01, 6 August 2015 (UTC).[reply]

Remember that this article was copied-with-permission from a specifically US blog, so it's reasonable to assume that the vast majority of the original audience are Americans. Nyttend (talk) 12:09, 6 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
That's not how I read it. To quote another of us old EFFers, "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." As most of us have surely observed by now, the peril lies in attempting to abuse legal and regulatory systems to stifle public access to the truth. In the age of the Web, this almost always backfires. For freedom of the digital press, and for everyone who benefits from the free (in both senses) flow of information, it is very much a happy outcome that some half-forgotten killers did not get away with forcing an encyclopedia to rewrite history and hide the truth.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  13:02, 6 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I think I made it perfectly clear that I disagree with these sort of lacuna. However if you think that "the Internet" or even "Wikipedia" are "For Great Justice" you have not been paying attention. You could start by reading "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" or simply look at examples of doxxing and swatting. All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 14:01, 8 August 2015 (UTC).[reply]
14:01, 8 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I should have caught and changed that before republication for a global audience, so the fault is mine and not Godwin's. Gamaliel (talk) 15:33, 6 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • Google was recently exposed by the Guardian for misrepresenting what the right to be forgotten is used for (Google accidentally reveals data on 'right to be forgotten' requests), consistently underplaying genuine privacy cases like revenge porn and instead harping on about how murderers would have the memory of their deeds erased from history (a theme recycled here), or politicians would destroy evidence of misdeeds. Yet the right to be forgotten is specifically about things in which there is no reasonable public interest. Wherever there is one, Google can and should simply refuse to remove links from search results. If they don't, they are playing silly-buggers. (Google used to have the motto "Don't be evil". Let's not forget that they're also the company who agreed to pay a half a billion dollar fine for making ad money from illegal drug sales.)
  • In this context, Mike Godwin similarly fails to acknowledge that even under European law, there is a balance between the right to know and the right to privacy. Moreover, Google seems to be making poor decisions on purpose in an effort to discredit European legislation. See for example this recent case, where Google honoured a request from a murderer convicted less than ten years ago, rather than bumping the request up to the information commissioner or simply rejecting it, as they are fully entitled to do: when the matter went to the Dutch court, the court ruled that there was no legitimate right to privacy in this case. So why did Google approve the murderer's request to have links removed?
  • Godwin has worked in the past as an attorney for the EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology, both of which are groups Google has been noted to channel money to: (Google and Facebook's new tactic in the tech wars). It shouldn't come as a surprise that the same thing has been said about the "R Street Institute" Godwin works for now: Google Caught Funding Slew of Right-Wing Front Groups.
  • So why is the Signpost running this piece by him? Who made the approach? Andreas JN466 08:38, 7 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • (Disclaimer: not normally a Wikipedia editor, was linked to this by a friend who is.)
  • The Guardian piece is just linkbait. What, exactly, is the point anyway? The "worst" RTBF requests I think everyone can agree on - including RTBF supporters - are from the likes of politicians seeking to suppress past misdeeds and the like. Of course Google would bring up cases like that to argue against it. There's apparently a huge volume of RTBF requests, and it's the *absolute* amount not the relative amount that matters, so I don't see the alleged relatively small amount of such cases as being some shocking revelation.
  • As for policy on when to remove, this shouldn't be Google's responsibility at all. It was a horrible decision that said "apply expensive court procedures, but outsource this to every website that wants to link to RTBF material." And as the article points out, the cheapest thing to do is to unconditionally remove even specious requests. It's an admirable stand on principle that Google isn't doing this and risking being dragged into court when they refuse, as it's expensive to explain why even obviously bad requests are wrong.
  • For "Mike Godwin fails to acknowledge": You're acting like that's something he doesn't know about, rather than arguing where to draw the line. Everyone agrees there's a balance to be struck, but in the opinion of Godwin and myself, European courts respect the right to information way too little. Look at the Ryan Giggs case for one example: if you are wealthy and had your feelings hurt, you can get courts to declare it illegal to publish, but for the standard person who can't go into court over everything, too bad.
  • The EFF & Google have largely similar ideologies. Dunno why you think it's surprising they might agree, any more than it'd be shocking that oil companies and Texan Senators might agree on something; this would be true regardless of if any money was involved. As for "Google caught funding slew of right wing front groups", sure, they probably fund some pro-competition & business friendly groups (shock! horror!), but per , Google's employees gave about 97% of their contributions in 2012 to Obama, 3% to Romney. Yeah totally in bed with conservatives there, not that it should matter even if they were, conservatives presumably have free speech rights too! Basically you're throwing around vague insinuations that don't actually make much sense. Most ideological think tanks say things because they *genuinely believe* it, not due to some nefarious scheme. RadRodent (talk) 21:35, 7 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • Well indeed, Texan senators may genuinely believe there is no anthropogenic climate change, for example. This may have nothing at all to do with the fact that the oil industry funds their campaigns. Similarly, people at The Heartland Institute may genuinely believe whatever it is they believe, and the industry funding just came in because those beliefs are congruent with the beliefs certain industries would like to see spreading, since that would improve their bottom line. (The Heartland Institute is not irrelevant here, as Godwin's present employer, the R Street Institute, broke away from The Heartland Institute in 2012 over a climate change dispute.) Still, if someone comments on a dispute between a multi-billion-dollar company and a democratically elected government, any financial ties between the author's employer and the company in question should be prominently disclosed, just to alert readers to the possibility – or indeed likelihood – that they are essentially dealing with a piece of paid-for PR. Andreas JN466 08:41, 8 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • Google may, and indeed should, bring up the worst RTBF cases. However neither they nor Godwin nor Wales should cite those cases as if they had been successful or indeed had a remote chance of being successful. Doing so is not only bad thing to do, it also lessens our faith in those advancing the statements.
    • Discussing the very real civil liberties issues on both sides of these arguments is important, characterizing it as "those crazy <insert political bias of choice> Europeans" does not advance the discussion. Remember, in the US, it is (in certain circumstances) possible to have criminal records sealed or expunged, but arrests, for which you may not even have been charged, remain available in perpetuity.
    • All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 14:16, 8 August 2015 (UTC).[reply]
@Jayen466: Andreas, you raise some valid concerns. First, the idea for running this op-ed was 100% mine. The first Godwin heard about it (and, for that matter, the other editors on the Signpost as well) was when I emailed him asking for permission to republish it. We've been wanting to increase the number of op-eds we run, but my efforts to solicit editors to write on particular topics have been largely unsuccessful. So instead we're trying to find interesting pieces that have appeared elsewhere and republishing those, beginning with Guillaume Paumier's excellent piece last week which he originally posted on his blog. When I found Godwin's blog post in the course of looking for items for ITM and noticed he'd published it under a Creative Commons license, I thought it would be more interesting to republish it instead of merely recounting it in a paragraph in ITM. If he had brought it to us, I would be a little wary because I know think tanks regularly try to "place" their writings in the media. But the Signpost isn't exactly a prime target for think tanks, I suspect.
I was not aware that Google had given funds to R Street, and had I known I would have wanted some kind of disclosure like the note I just added to the op-ed. I don't know if that would have stopped me from running it. Google also gave money to the National Urban League and People for the American Way, and I'd run pieces from them in a heartbeat if they were somewhat related to Wikipedia. I'm more concerned about R Street's association with the Heartland Institute, whose relationship to science moves it from the category "people I disagree with" to "lunatic fringe". But I don't believe Heartland's anti-science stance has had any impact on the issues discussed in this article.
  • Just adding a note with regard to the relationship between Heartland and the R Street Institute -- R Street's only "association" with Heartland is some members of its staff resigned from Heartland precisely in opposition to Heartland's climate-change-denial position. (R Street's work on environmental policy accepts the indisputable fact of climate change.) I'll add that, although it's true Google is one of R Street's funders, my focus on the Right To Be Forgotten predates my employment by R Street, and, in fact, R Street has received no money from Google regarding RTBF policy or other international internet-policy issues. Those pieces of my portfolio came with me from Internews and from Wikimedia Foundation itself, where I did some of the earliest work on RTBF. MikeGodwin (talk) 13:09, 26 September 2015 (UTC)[reply]
When the Signpost discussed a previous op-ed by Godwin, it prompted a vigorous discussion about whether or not the Signpost was being used as a vehicle for certain odious viewpoints. When you run a publication like this, you want to offer a diversity of viewpoints, including ones you disagree with, but you also run into the danger of being someone else's megaphone. This danger is compounded when we have a very limited pool of writers to draw from. Readers don't always understand that so many of our decisions are based on not what is best way to cover something, but who is available to write about it.
When it comes to RTBF, Americans - who are some of the loudest voices on Wikipedia - do not have much familiarity with this concept and so tend to think of these issues solely in free speech terms. American readers of the Signpost would benefit from a European perspective on these issues. You would be an ideal candidate to write a Signpost op-ed on this topic, hint, hint.... Gamaliel (talk) 22:58, 8 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for the explanation of the background, G. (And the Ed. note.) I would have been concerned if the suggestion had come from the WMF. I'll bear the op-ed offer in mind. ;) --Andreas JN466 12:53, 9 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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