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Wikipedia Censorship Annoys Users

By December 11, 2008July 30th, 20233 Comments

The majority of Internet service providers in the U.K. have blocked a page on Wikipedia that showed a picture of a nude teenage girl.

Wikipedia users have not taken very kindly to this action. The page in question, was the cover of an album by the Scorpions, a German heavy metal band. The album had been released way back in 1976.

The decision to block the page was taken after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) warned the service providers that the picture might be illegal. They said it was a “potentially illegal indecent image of a child” less than 18 years of age.

Users, who have strongly objected to the move, say that the IWF was not meant to censor popular sites such as Wikipedia. They also stated that the photo in question was available in several books and had never been called illegal.

The IWF however, stands by their decision, saying that they had even consulted the police before issuing the warning.

Since ISPs such as BT, AOL and News International are members of the IWF, this picture is now inaccessible to about 95% of internet users in the U.K.

What is annoying a lot of users is that along with the photograph, even the text on that page has been blocked.

David Gerard a volunteer at Wikipedia, said on BBC’s Radio 4 that the picture was still available on the album cover on the band’s box set and also on several other websites.

When asked why the same picture on Amazon had not been blocked, IWF said that it was a “pragmatic” decision, which has led users to believe that the educational site Wikipedia is being bullied, while Amazon, which is a relatively cash rich site has been left alone as they may sue the IWF.

The spokesperson of the IWF, Susan Robertson however defends the action, by saying that they only act on the reports they receive, and the only report received so far had been of Wikipedia. She said that the analyst team and police partners would be consulted, regarding the image on Amazon.

The IWF has been requested by the Wikimedia Foundation to remove Wikipedia from the blacklist, as it is one of the best educational sites and even has better information than many encyclopedias.

Update: The IWF has reversed its decision on Tuesday, after invoking its own appeals procedure. They issued a statement saying “in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.”