The Internet Watch Foundation has removed Wikipedia from its child porn blacklist, despite its contention that the free online encyclopedia includes an image "potentially in breach" of the UK Protection of Children Act. On Friday, under instructions from the IWF, several major UK ISPs began censoring a Wikipedia article …
If they had any moral ground they just lost it
What a laugh. Where did their high moral ground and position that they have never gone unchallenged go? Frankly, let's have a repeat of this. Let's submit them the covers of Nirvana albums and watch the show again, again and again until they get dissolved.
*THIS* is what should happen every time people try to censor the internet. See? That wasn't so hard. The Streisand effect and a little good old fashioned defiance is all it takes to put a stop to this nonsense.
Who was harmed?
Ironically the IWF "harmed" the girl on the cover by bringing the World's attention to her, and "harmed" millions of innocent people by suggesting they were viewing an illegal image.
The only people not to be harmed were your local neighborhood pedophiles, who will continue regardless as before.
The eye of the beholder
What is striking about this event as recorded in many forums is that many people can see nothing pornographic in the image and are surprised that anyone can do so. Equally, and presumably including Jimmy Wales, do see it as pornographic and hence questionable to appear on Wikipedia & elsewhere.
Now the difference of opinion is so widepread I don't think either group can claim the moral highground. It is just that. The image is dirty or not and this perception is independent of whether you are a perve or not.
So how do we manage our way through the issues of images that one group couldn't guess would offend/not offend a significant part of the community? Does it not suggest that we should not rely on a particular group of watchdogs? That is, by all means, set up watch/ban panels which if they are in line with your view can be switched on/off to filter your or your kids viewing?
After all, whatever the law, the split reaction of people would probably mean that if this image had gone to court it is unlikely that a jury (also being split) could return a unanimous or near unanimous decision.
Wikipedia *does* have a solution ....
ISTR from various Wiki ramblings that images which may shock or offend can be given a link. And there are articles with ongoing discussions where people suggest images (for example) of an erect penis should not be on the front page of the article, but through a click link, which describes the image ... everybody happy ?
It occurred to me that censoring one wikipedia page is pointless, as anyone can set up a redirect, and just access that page. Shame they've removed the censor as I can't test my theory now :)
Now the IWF have managed to confuse their remit with this precedent and make their criteria sound arbitrary...
1. They say that as Amazon US is in the US, they didn't have to censor their image, just image hosted inside the UK. First, Wikipedia is hosted outside the UK. Secondly, does this mean that all images outside the UK are exempt?
2. Now anyone can use an "artistic license" defence, which the other reason they gave for removing the ban.
3. There's also a "length of time" defence.
Reasons 1 and 2 aren't mentioned in El Reg's story but they are in others (BBC, Grauniad, etc...).
And all of this because they knew they couldn't take on the might of Amazon.
Censorship doesn't work
The IWF have clearly demonstrated in this instance that making something taboo, simply increases peoples curiosity about the subject matter.
I've looked at said image (something I would have never done without this contraversy, as I'd never heard of the band) and yes, I would say it's mildly controversial, but it accurately and succinctly depicts the title of the album, as with all art it should be immune to cencorship.
Death , thrash and heavy metal et al, are controversial art forms by their very nature, and as such challenge our preconceptions of social structure (the values of which undergoe radical and constant change as it steadily evolves). If anything, this album cover is pretty mild compared those of say, Cradle Of Filth, and is certainly less explicit than the images you'd find in a GCSE biology textbook.
The real irony is that this entire attitutde towards "prepubescent sexuality" (in quotes becuase our current laws are actually distinctly out of sync with biological puberty) dates back a law introduced by Queen victoria.
Victoria was not interested in defining the "right" age to become sexually active (which has now become the overriding dictum of these laws) but in fact, to stamp out the selling of young women into slavery by early forced marriage. Something that was also commonly accepted by society at the time.
This was why she changed the law so that the woman also had to say "I do" during the marriage vows.
Paris, cause she knows all about sexuality.
More Wikibashing, *yawn*
Seriously, this incessant wiki-flaming (as opposed to legitimate Jimbo-bashing) is getting somewhat dull.
And I feel compelled to point out that JImbo's comment doesn't count as "a voice of reason" simply because he agrees with your views.
I for one will not be taking this lying down, I have taken a copy of the Sun and used it to start a fire at my local paediatrician’s office, that'll teach him for sounding like a kiddy fiddler.
Shock! Horror! Out Rage! Vandalism!
You reported that Jimmy Wales spoke in a calm and reasonable tone yesterday. How dare El Reg report such blattant lies? Don't you check anything you report?
So how many other sites have they censored
So why is the list secret? If there's no problem with the censor list and everyone is happy with it, and all the ISPs in the UK are on board, why is the list censored.
It's fine they censored Wikipedia for A FRIGGING ALBUM COVER SOLD IN SHOPS ACROSS THE WORLD, then backed down, but people know Wikipedia, it's a major site and so it was an issue. However it means that they're overzealous and most likely are banning many other things of no consequence for smaller sites.
So release the list and the reasoning for censoring it. Just like the banned list of movies is public which should the censored list be secret?
This is not like major government secrets, like illegally employing cleaners without permits, or something, it's a list, supposedly representing the majority view of the UK, yet the majority never get to see the list, so it cannot possibly represent the majority view.
The Internet: The last bastion of Democracy?
Quite heartening to see that public pressure can make those that seek to turn the Internet into a kind of cyber-nanny state see (some) sense.
Now if only Brown, Wacqui and the other pillocks who run this corporeal Nanny State (Otherwise known as the UK) would also see the light.
Another censorship own-goal
Yet again, a censor has tried to prevent people from being exposed to content on the internet and, as a result, has massively increased the number of people viewing it. This is why trying to restrict the internet fails, and why [we] must continue to aggressively advertise every act of mis-censorship that happens, sooner or later these people may just realize that what they are doing is counter-productive
This is not over
Although I object to censorship of the internet altogether, my main objection here is the sneaky way in which it was done. Rather than reporting that the page is blocked, it shows a 404.
Then we got a response from our ISP saying "Noone's had any problems with it before". Well duh! How are we supposed to know how many of those 404's we encountered were filtered? And not even the ISPs get to see whats on the list IIRC, they just get an encrypted file which they load into the filtering sw.
For the sake of this argument I will ignore the fact that this sort of thing will not ever stop (or even reduce) child porn, or child abuse, or racial hatred. I will assume that the filter is necessary and censorship is the best method to tackle these problem. Even if that was the case, filtering in this way leaves the IWF without any complaints and pretty much unaccountable. How do we know that they are sticking to their remit? How do we know this isnt becoming just like the great firewall of china? I know this sounds far fetched, but as we dont know, the IWF (if leaned on by the govt) could ban sites to withold information.
I personally think the censorship will not work, wastes money, and is morally wrong. But even if it stays, it needs a radical overhaul.
Let's hope we all learnt something.
Excuse me while I laugh quietly to myself
I think they were wrong to block it in the first place - but ti seemsw that if there's enough of a stink, they just back down, so they are obviously not certain of their choices in the first place - which makes it even more of a mockery.
Bad decisions and no backbones... I find the whole thing pathetic.
To The Register's censor: Full marks - I've seen some pretty cutting comments for both sides of an argument, often against the reg - so I don't consider it censorship - but I've never seen spam in comments. Thanks from me for doing it right.
This just means more secrecy from the IWF in future...
Of course, the upshot of this is that the IWF will, henceforth, operate far more covertly and continue it's web-wide censorship hoping to avoid ever being noticed again. This is no victory for common sense; it's a temporary blip for the zealots at IWF and CEOP and strategies will be designed to avoid this kind of outcome in future, no doubt.
It is important to note that the IWF (and by clear implication CEOP) still considers this image 'potentially illegal' in the UK - therefore still 'a scene of crime' if CEOP's own widely-stated utterances on such material is to be accepted at face value.
Ah well. Tricky business, this Paedogeddon.
Jimbo Wales sez...
"go back and take a hard look"
Tee hee. <snigger>
Is the album any good? after all this marketing hype I'm tempted to buy it.
Sweetness and Light?
Nah, just SOB. A huge worldwide outcry that's loud and clear and mocking the arse off the authority in question, the possibility of riots and widespread defiance encouraging more and more people to use anonymous access, posting and so on. And as good as unanimous. The cost of carrying on the stupidity is greater than the cost of backing down redfaced. Reminds me a bit of the polltax farce that led to pensioners queuing up to be sent to jail and the demise of Thatcher (praise be).
Go for the jugular and hang on like a pitbull and you'll get what you want.
(I'm sure there's many a pensioner would queue up to be sent to Paris CA...)
It's an equality thing
In simple terms, American law is on shaky ground whenever it does something to legislate against the chest of only one gender. Over here sex discrimination is far more acceptable and thus the fact that her genitals are covered is less significant.
Failure of intent
Child Pornography laws exist in order to protect children from child abuse (making child pornography using real children implies child abuse).
They are being used in an attempt to eradicate all images that certain people deem offensive. Cartoons of Simpson sex; ancient album covers posed by models who were presumably of legal age at the time; the list goes on, and will go on.
None of those have anything to do with child abuse. These acts cheapen the serious intent of these laws and will ultimately desensitize us to occurences of real child pornography. We're going to read that someone was arrested for "having child porn" and deduce that they were a Scorpions fan with the sense of humour required to enjoy Simpsons sex cartoons.
Never mind the hideous "vetting" process that now goes on for anyone wishing to work with other peoples' children, the blacklisting of those deemed unsuitable, and the subtle demonization of men in general.
I think the moral majority really need to get a grip on this one.
Won't someone think of the adults?
We've had censorship of the UK internet for several years now and this is the first time you've all noticed?
Posted anonymously because I work for one of the ISPs concerned and I've already had my knuckles rapped for expressing disapproval of this whole set up.
'the free online encyclopedia includes an image "potentially in breach" of the UK Protection of Children Act.'
So what? I am "potentially" a burglar. I am "potentially" a rapist. I am "potentially" a murderer. SO is every other human! Are we to start punishing people on what they "potentially" may do?
The IWF should have sought advice from a court (or other relevant authority) to have the image declared actually illegal or not and then placed Wikipedia on to the black-list. I realise this may give legal problems as Wiki would have committed an illegal act, but going on the black list would be fit punishment.
Akin to a medical professional sectioning an individual, if you will (to go back to my analogy).
Oh and El Reg, your reporting on this whole debacle has been shockingly poor. Why were you not pressuring the IWF for statements on their inconsistency? I guess the temptation to stick the boot into the Wikitards proved just too much.
If the image is found to be illegal...
That makes everybody in the UK who's seen it a pedophile, under current legislation.
Good luck, everyone.
Give me a break
To claim that Wikipedia is not censored is, at best, disingenuous. The pages are censored routinely by administrators who censor based on their knee-jerk reaction rather than fact. It's a fairly common experience of anyone who has tried to create/edit a Wikepedia page that the admins will pull pages that don't conform to the perceived wisdom of the common herd, even when there is plenty of evidence and the citations are given. Admins can't be bothered to do anythign as tedious as read citations, and why should they need to when they *know* that something is *wrong*.
This is why Wikipedia is the antihesis of QI. The quiz challenges lazy thinking and trite assumptions. Wikipedia thrives on the trite, trivial and on consensus above accuracy.
Paris, because even she's not as dumb as the average WikiDroid(tm).
World and dog have yet to get to grips with this multi-media existence we now have.
Even Wiki is suffering from bit of the old in-out - it'll be needing some KY jelly.
I'm still waiting for the re-launch of that old TV programme that showcased the talents of young people in a positive and life-affirming way. It showed what young people could achieve when given the chance and returned television to a pure art form.
Not a single picture of any of the old Minipops series to be found on Wiki.
I wonder why.
Ah well, back to the mail-order catalogues, then.
In the meantime, I'm amused that some idiot used a bit of a Gary Glitter song in an advert that was briefly broadcast. "Thank you very much" must be what Mr Gadd said when the cheque for several thousand quid arrived. I'm not so much pleased for the old bald kiddie fiddler but that several Daily Mail readers would have probably self-destructed in indignant fury.
The IWF are and those ISPs _are_ still censoring the internet. It's just that they've reconsidered this particular image, whatever the reason.
Personally I don't care about this image or Wikip(a)edia in this case, what outrages me is the "404" response; At my place of work, I get a clear "Forbidden" message if I try to access a restricted site. That's fine, it's a clear message and everyone knows where they stand. I would even be happy if my ISP told me that they were blocking a certain page or site; It prevents "accidentally" going to that site and if I'm unhappy with their reasoning, I'll take responsibility for any of my actions to get around that ban.
Even the black censors pen is an honest statement. Outright lies from politicians and the nanny state "because the truth might hurt us" is unacceptable.
Jimbo - the voice of reason?
All he's doing is typical self censorship. That's just a consequence of the current political climate. It's add odds with with their stance on other topics and doesn't address the underlying problem. This particular image is controversial, there's debate surrounding it but that doesn't mean it should be taken off - the opposite if anything. The point here is that this is NOT child pornography.
If you want to address difficult topics you should confront and openly discuss them - not sweep them under the carpet. It seems to me that the IWF do a difficult job that's worthwhile however they should not have the role expand into matters of taste. It's one thing to show a provocative image (and even the Scorpions admit that this image is probably in poor taste) it's another to censor based on the current level of hysteria.
The most important point . . .
. . . and one the IWF keep trotting out as their reasoning, that it's "potentially illegal" is what should really be under the micro-scope.
You cant ban something because it's "potentially illegal", it's either illegal or it isn't, if it's illegal, then the police can pass all these people on to the CPS and find out how far they get (my thinking would be no-where).
Reading the statement it's clear the IWF still consider the image a child abuse image. But because it has been around for a while and because it's widely available, it's ok. That makes no sense and is surely a pretty poor determinant of how to deal with potentially legal/illegal material.
cracked camera lens and "relevant countries"
I don't claim to be an expert in optics, but no way could a cracked camera lens give an effect like that.
Neither do I claim to be an expert in law, but I would guess that the image is not at all likely to be illegal in the UK or the US. However, I'd be interested to hear Jimbo's opinion on what the "relevant countries" are. Does he only care about major English-speaking countries, as this is the English Wikipedia? Assuming the UK and the US have stricter rules on the legality of images, would he then not object to the image being in the French and German Wikipedias, for example?
first glimmer of common sense?
... if not maturity from the self-appointed great and the good who have taken it upon themselves to "protect" us from all the nastiness in the world.</irony>
The prim and proper guardians of the country's morals have given this particular image more publicity than it has ever had throughout all it's previous years, and it must be said, far more publicity than it deserves.
Maybe they'll turn their abilities of turning obscurity into a cause celebre to good use. The art world is crying out for more promotion of it's products - so maybe all these latter-day Whitehouse's and Longford's will start a crusade to rid the world of all these horrible, nasty nude portraits and statues. The ones which artists, since the dawn of time, have produced and then displayed in public - all without comment or concern from prudes throughout the ages.
Of course, they couldn't possibly corrupt the young, or impressionable - after all, it's art: innit.
only covered = covered, surely?
My musical tastes don't run that way, and I've not looked online, but the description "young girl with her genitals covered" seems as though it might be accurate.
Where did the "only" get in?
It suggests that someone providing the description is doing one or more of imagining what is not visible and reacting to it, trying to deny they have made a mistake and then corrected it, or got it right and then backed down with no rational argument, or pursuing a covert agenda by contaminating the semiotics of your discourse with us.
If it is the latter, try not to let it happen - remove unnecessary modifiers.
The image *is* dodgy
I've seen the image and I'm not at all comfortable with it. Anyone making comparisons with the Nirvana Nevermind cover image or somesuch is barking up the wrong tree - the Virgin Killer image isn't an innocent photograph, but rather a sexualised image of a pre-pubescent child. And I think it's right that sexualising children is a taboo. The notion of 'free speech' is being abused when people use it to defend images such as this.
I haven't seen the image before today, and I was thinking 'typical knee-jerk stuff I suppose'. But then I clicked on the wiki link and quite frankly I don't see how anyone can justify that this picture be published, regardless of how long it has been in the public domain.
This isn't some innocent little naked cherub with a harp that was painted 100 years ago. It's a picture of a very young naked girl with the title 'virgin killer' which is clearly sexual in context.
How this isn't classed as indecent I don't know.
The IWF are pussies. They should have blocked access to the entirety of wikipedia until they removed the image or at least blocked out the chest and genital area.
I'm not usually so puritanical but this seems fairly clear cut to me. Wiki should have self-censored this image.
Reprise Blind Faith 1969
That controversy died down too, after a while. A collectors item, both for the cover and the music.
Anonymous Hero said, "See, it wasn't so hard". At face value, maybe.
But lets remember what there was in favour of a bit of common sense. As well as the lots of shouting, there was a foreign company, with foreign servers, and a company that is staffed by volunteers and that is not dependant on advertising revenue.
UK servers would have had a take down notice that the server farm would not have appealed against, fearing the taint of "supports kiddie fiddlers". Fasthosts and Craig Murray spring to mind.
Direct UK legal action could have been taken against a UK firm, and few directors would volunteer to do time, especially considering what has just been reported happening to one of Sharron Matthews' abductors inside.
Any company dependant on advertising revenue would back off very quickly because they would lose their advertisers even more quickly, all from the fear of taint from "supports kiddie fiddlers".
Of course, as soon as Mandy gets his slimy hands on the levers that control UK domain name registrations (and the Domain Name System as it relates to the UK) then all these matters will be quickly brought under "proper" control. We have just seen a demonstration that he has the technology. The IWF is as independant of the Government as was Sir Ian Bliar!
This is just further evidence that the climate of fear tool is working very effectively, and beyond its authority. (Cf "Common Purpose" and "Leading beyond authority"). Did you see how quickly those with big budgets, powerful lawyers, and revenues to protect, all scurried to remove the "offending image" from their pages? With the present structure of the Internet we don't really need too many more "victories" like this!
art or pornography ?
This has been a difficult question for many years, and standards and tastes have oscillated, e.g. when Victorian prudes removed genitalia from renaissance statues and paintings. It's not surprising that this one should eventually challenge Wikipedia policy, especially given the growing use of many of the excellent articles in this encyclopedia in education.
My own view is that this image and comparable album covers from the same period are art and not pornography. While I don't think of these as being in as good taste as many statues and paintings from the renaissance period which are equally if not more revealing and provocative, who is to judge how future generations will see the controversial album covers ?
You can see many images of renaissance art of similar or greater exposure starting with simple searches on Google images even with strictsafe mode on. Some of these are on Wikipedia itself, and I hope no-one would dream of removing them. Wikipedia's problem is that it is going to be difficult for them to remove controversial seventies rock album art on any objective basis without also removing many highly valued renaissance art images.
Viva La Revolution!!
"...So then the question becomes: does this image fit the definition under (especially) US law, or the law of any particularly relevant countries (UK). That is a question of judgment of fact that I do not think has been looked at sufficiently..."
The thing that's so hilariously funny about this whole episode is that the IWF are in the right. The image DOES breach current legal guidelines on child porn. If you have viewed it on a computer over the last few days you ARE guilty of a sex crime.
I hold no brief for the IWF - I think the lot of them should be dropped in a swamp - but I think they have done their appalling, peverse job accurately. The problem is NOT with the IWF, the problem is with the LAW. Current legislation criminalises almost every aspect of life, and sex is just one of the areas of oppression.
What has happened here is that the country (or just the techies?) have revolted against the correct application of an oppressive law, and an arm of the state has backed down. Really, quite an important event for Britain, though much more common in France.
Let us see much more of it! And make sure your MPs know. This is NOT a mistake by the IWF, but something much more fundamental...
Many shades of black and white
There is an underlying tension here that it seems both parties have managed to step away from, although it will no doubt return in the future. The IWF is probably smart enough to know that its entire operation depends upon it being regarded as trustworthy. Trustworthy in that they can be trusted to get it right. Almost exactly the same problem as spam blacklists. The precipice they stepped back from was the taint that they had become overly prescriptive, and were becoming, not a refection of standards, but beginning to prescribe standards. It is a short step from where they are now to becoming politicised, controversial, and very quickly after, ignored.
As the article says, despite everything, Wales probably got it right. Wikipedia should, and mostly is, judged by exactly the same standards as the IWF. They should be trustworthy, not just for the correctness of the content (which is of course a different problem for them) but also the same ethical standards that they hold to. "We don't censor" is not an adequate ethical standard. (As had been pointed out time and time again, they do censor anyway, and do so with a heavy hand and essentially no accountability.) Being a pan-national effort, Wikipedia steps into a legal vacuum. But this isn't to say they step into an ethical vacuum. With luck Wikipedia might start to grow up a little and recognise this. As might the knee jerk "don't censor the internet" dweebs, although that will likely take much longer.
Until this little debacle I was unaware of the the original album cover. Down here in Oz we got the posterised black and white version that was pretty innocuous. Having now seen the original, I think it would be a safe bet that, should that cover be brought to market today, the German police would have a very good case to bring against the photographer. Wikipedia might like to consider that.
Is it any good?
@ Paul Murphy: It's from just about the end of their experimental, space jazz-rock phase. I find it pretentious aural masturbation, so it's probably got the right cover...
IMHO, their later, straighter rocking sound works best.
On the censorship front, I've got mixed views.
one of the first posters were right...
surely this contravenes the kiddie porn laws as well...
End of Part One...
... but what happens when the bungling idiots at the IWF start doing the same thing with anything they judge "extreme porn". Don't forget that the UK Govt have put them in-line for censoring the net when this law comes in to force next month.
The real question we should be asking is if Mary Whitehouse has a broadband connection, or if any pressure group with a cause starts flooding the IWF with reports of anything they don't like.
The Naked Title
Yay for common sense. However, a timely warning. Once the human race (meaning the citizens of the US and UK), decide an image of a naked prebuscent child is obscene, that is the day I pronounce the human race as officially insane.
No ifs, ors or buts (see what I did there :-), no matter if we cure cancer or dishonesty, the utter and pure innocence of the child will have been irrevocably lost for ever, so take heed you guardians of puritanical devilry, take care of what you pronounce to be 'bad'.
If you see an image of a naked child and feel anything approaching 'wrongness' look within and examine your own devils before casting the first stone.
BT have joined the club
My BT internet service is filtering the Virgin Killer page, although I can see it through anonymouse and the https wikipedia site. However, in response to a complaint, this is the answer I got (complete with their spilling mastikes):
I am sorry to learn that you are not able to access the individual pages at Wikipaedia. I do understand your concern and will try my best to resolve the issue for you.
First, I would like to inform you that BT has not censored or blocked any website or pages. We do not have the authority to block any sites. It might be some temporary issue hence I would advise you to perform the steps below and check the settings. You can also use a different browser (Morizilla fire fox, BT yahoo browser) and then check to access the Wikipaedia.
The IWF over reached itself and got shown up and a well deserved kicking for it. As I've said, noble intentions should not save you from consequences when you fsck up. And the IWF have fscked up quite spectacularly.
The questions about the IWF's methodology, transparency and accountability have been asked, need answering and a far more transparent and accountable solution putting in place. How a supposedly internet savvy organisation like the IWF couldn't see what would happen says an awful lot about their understanding.
If the IWF does not realise how far their failure extends then the people there are not fit for purpose and need to be replaced. Their failure may have more consequences for UK internet users than they or we ever imagined.
I hope that lessons have been learned here.
Two victories for common sense of consecutive days?
What's the world coming to?
Anyway, this is good news: I have a stack of "important editing work" left over from the weekend, and those pages aren't going to vandalise themselves.
and next time?
What happens next time? Can we as a mob summon this kind of outrage every single time they bugger up the censorship of the internet?
Its time for a review of the IWF's role - any organisation that can block a site from 95% of the UK's broadband users (source: Wikipedia) deserves and needs more oversight and accountability built into its structure.
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