Wikipedia Founder Considers Action Over Scorpions Image Ban


December 9, 2008

The founder of Wikipedia has told Channel 4 News that he is considering challenging the decision to block access to part of Wikipedia in the UK.

Criticising the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) for blocking access in order to prevent UK users from viewing an image of a naked pre-pubescent girl taken in 1976, Jimmy Wales said IWF’s actions have actually exposed more people to the image as it spreads throughout the web. The image in question was on the cover of an album by German rock band The Scorpions.

The block has also meant that millions of users in the UK are now unable to edit the encyclopaedia’s pages.

Commenting for the first time since most internet service providers in Britain blocked part or all of Wikipedia, Wales told Channel 4 News, “My first thoughts when I was told that the IWF had blocked the Wikipedia page was that we should take them to court.

“But because they’re not a statutory body, I’ve been told we can’t necessarily challenge their decision.”

The government has said that it expects all internet service providers (ISPs) to block sites on the IWF’s blacklist. Wales said Wikipedia is still considering its position.

“The IWF was clearly over-reaching its remit when it blocked the text page on Wikipedia – there’s nothing illegal about the description of the album. I’d also question its wisdom in trying to block the image itself,” he said.

“There’s no question that it’s a dodgy picture, but it’s an artistic protest made many years ago. But my concern isn’t so much about the image it’s the ambiguous way that [the IWF] is behaving,” he added.

When asked if it was unfair to single out Wikipedia, when not taking action against other websites, including major retailers, that are also publishing the image, Wales said, “It’s clearly unfair and reprehensible for [the IWF] to go after some websites and not others. People are so up in arms now.

“As a result of the IWF’s actions, the image is actually being seen by more people. It’s appearing on thousands of blogs today it will continue to be passed on. What is it going to do? Is it going to block all of the web if it continues to be spread?”

Wales added, “How do we draw up a boundary line that allows both routine internet expression and not paedophilia? The IWF system has been in operation for a number of years. Is it out of date?”

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