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Is the U.K.'s Filtering of Wikipedia Just the Beginning?

Michael Santo's picture

Wikipedia is effectively being filtered for most users in the U.K. since the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) added a Wikipedia article on Virgin Killer, an album from German heavy metal group Scorpions, to its blacklist. This could just be the beginning, however.

Why? The Guardian noted that a representative of the IWF told them that the same cover art image, which apparently shows an underage girl nude, had been reported to IWF as appearing on an page. According to Sarah Robertson, director of communications for the IWF:

Robertson declined to say whether Amazon would be the next to be blocked. She confirmed that the Amazon page containing the offending cover was referred to the IWF today, but that no decision would be taken while the review of the original decision was in progress.

She could not say how long the review of the original decision will take. Typically it takes about 24 hours for a URL to go from initial referral to being added to the blacklist.

That's fortunate: a search of the U.S. and U.K. sites seems to indicate that the image has been removed.

But what's more troubling is that such a decision can be made seemingly so easily, and cut off access to an undeniably useful site over what Robertson herself said was an image that was deemed "1 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least offensive." Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation's General Counsel, Mike Godwin said in an emailed press release:

"We have no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world. We believe it's worth noting that the image is currently visible on Amazon, where the album can be freely purchased by UK residents. It is available on thousands of websites that are accessible to the UK public."

Can you imagine the effect on Amazon's traffic flow if such a similar blacklisting were put into place? Not that we have reached the "Great Firewall of China" status here, or even close, but still ...

The IWF has released a statement on this matter; you can read it here.

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