Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over 'child porn' album cover
Virgin Killer births mass edit ban
Updated Six British ISPs are filtering access to Wikipedia after the site was added to an Internet Watch Foundation child-pornography blacklist, according to Wikipedia administrators.
As of Sunday morning UK time, certain British web surfers were unable to view at least one Wikipedia article tagged with ostensible child porn. And, in a roundabout way, the filtering has resulted in Wikipedia admins banning large swaths of the United Kingdom from editing the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit".
On Friday, Wikipedia administrators noticed that Virgin Media, Be Unlimited/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon, and Opal were routing Wikipedia traffic through a small number of transparent proxy servers as a way of blocking access to the encyclopedia's article on Virgin Killer, a mid-1970s record album from German heavy metal band the Scorpions.
At it stands, the article includes an image of the album's original cover, which depicts a naked prepubescent girl. The cover was banned in many countries and replaced by another when the album made its 1976 debut. And apparently, the image is now on a blacklist compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, a government-backed organization charged with fighting online child pornography in the UK and Europe.
According to posts on Wikipedia and Wikinews, users of those six ISPs receive blank pages, "404 errors" or something similar if they attempt to view the Virgin Killer article. But that's half the issue.
Because the six ISPs are routing Wikipedia traffic through transparent proxies, huge numbers of would-be Wikipedia editors appear to be coming from the same IP range. A single IP, for instance, may identify all Virgin Media users. This means that if Wikipedia admins ban one Virgin Media customer for "abusing" the site with inappropriate edits, they ban every Virgin Media customer.
According to ZDNet, many UK users receive this message if they attempt to edit the site:
Wikipedia has been added to a Internet Watch Foundation UK website blacklist, and your Internet service provider has decided to block part of your access. Unfortunately, this also makes it impossible for us to differentiate between different users, and block those abusing the site without blocking other innocent people as well.
In Wikiland, this creates an epic user-generated conundrum. Wikipedia fancies itself as a kind of Web 2.0 wonderland where anyone on earth can contribute. So it doesn't like banning edits from enormous chunks of the UK. But administrators have refused to remove the naked prepubescent on the grounds that "Wikipedia doesn't censor."
According to admins, the issue is now in the hands of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that oversees Wikipedia. But as of Sunday morning, the Foundation had not spoken.
Whether it removes the naked prepubescent or not, the Foundation will receive an uncensored Web 2.0 tongue-lashing. Wikipedia isn't a user-generated utopia. It's a cultish self-contradiction that can't help but undermine its own ideals. ®
The IWF has acknowledged blocking Wikipedia's Virgin Killer article via British ISPs. A spokeswoman told The Reg that the organization believes the album cover image includes content that is consistent with the legal definition of child abuse, pointing out that under the UK Children Act, the only issue at stake is the content – not the intent of the publisher.
However, as of Sunday evening UK time, the offending image is still freely available on Amazon, and as the controversy over Wikipedia rolls on, it is being reproduced on hundreds of sites available in the UK and across the world.
David Gerard, an (unofficial) Wikipedia UK press spokesman, takes issue with the fact that ISPs are blocking not only the image but the associated text of the article: "Part of the problem lies in the fact that the IWF have not just blocked the offending image, but have blocked the accompanying text as well. We cannot be certain, but we suspect that had they stuck to their remit of focussing on pictures, the problem might not have arisen."
According to Wikipedia admins, British Wikipedia editors are being hidden behind a small number of IP addresses because the ISPs' proxy servers are not passing Wikipedia the "X-Forwarded-From" header, which would allow the site to identify the true IP range of individual users. It's unclear whether a workaround is possible.
Naturally, Virgin Killer is now among the most popular pages on the English-language version of Wikipedia.
The IWF has also posted a statement on its website. It reads, in part:
A Wikipedia web page was reported through the IWF’s online reporting mechanism in December 2008. As with all child sexual abuse reports received by our Hotline analysts, the image was assessed according to the UK Sentencing Guidelines Council (page 109). The content was considered to be a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18, but hosted outside the UK. The IWF does not issue takedown notices to ISPs or hosting companies outside the UK, but we did advise one of our partner Hotlines abroad and our law enforcement partner agency of our assessment. The specific URL (individual webpage) was then added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.
Meanwhile, a Wikimedia Foundation spokesman has acknowledged that huge numbers of British ISPs users have been blocked from editing Wikipedia, but did not seem to comment further: "It appears that there's a large number of editors — I can't say all — who appear to have access issues," he told THe AP.
Additional reporting by John Ozimek
The problem is the law
The law as written is just an example in a long list of badly written legislation from Labour in their ever ending quest to be seen to be "doing something." This has done a HUGE amount of damage to our legal system. I would like to see a re-debate of ALL laws passed under this Labour government with a view to writing them properly.
No-one would argue that child pornography is a bad thing but this image is not child pornography yet it comes under this law because it is not written properly. No-one would argue that children need protecting from exploitation but most would argue that this should not be at the expense of existing freedoms. Such freedoms are just as important. This is what makes writing good legislation difficult.
Taking the never ending piss.
In the civilised Belgian city of Brussels there is a world famous piece of statuary called the Manneken Pis. This amusing little statue depicts a naked young boy with a seemingly endless stream of piss flowing from his penis into a pool below. Millions of tourists are attracted to this site every year and according to the local tourist board most of them take photographs of the 'pissing boy'. Presumably many of these snappers are UK citizens, which raises several interesting questions for Saint Jacquiavelli and her moral outriders at the IWF.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the existence of these corrupting images in the homes and on the computers of many UK citizens?
In true NuLabour style is she going to assemble a task force to invade Belgium and impose 'regime change'?
Is the IWF aware that the internet is awash with images depicting the 'pissing boy'?
I hesitate to mention that there is a similar statue in another part of the city depicting a naked young girl performing the same natural function, but solely for the benefit of the perverts at IWF it is called Jeanneke Pis and can be found at the east side of Impasse de la Fidélité / Getrouwheidsgang (Faith Alley).
Some words from the Wiki...
This comment on the Wiki discussion page seems worth giving a wider audience to:
"I think testing the IWF in court would be a very bad thing. I cannot believe the IWF would block a Wikipedia page and not expect an enormous shitstorm to brew up, thus one may presume that for publicity/PR/legal purposes they have deliberately gone after a major site on a bit of a 'fishing expedition' to test the response. Taking them to court would risk legitimising what is a very small-time organisation that has never gone after a Google, Amazon or Microsoft (despite the supposed 'offensive image' being all over Google images and Amazon) in a big way and could give them the push to go up to that higher level of interference and censorship (just look at the situation in Australia atm to see how far it can go). The best thing to do if you live in the UK is to contact your MP (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/) highlighting the problem of an unelected, unaccountable censorship body (and the press along the same lines), until the IWF becomes an embarrasment to the Government who ultimately holds it's leash. Jw2034 (talk) 17:12, 8 December 2008 (UTC)"
We really do need to get the MPs involved. The big problem is that the IWF is unelected and unaccountable. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/