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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

UK ISPs Are Censoring Wikipedia 668

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-not-to-accomplish-something dept.
Concerned Wikipedian writes "Starting December 4th, Wikipedia administrators noticed a surge of edits from certain IP addresses. These IPs turned out to be the proxies for the content filters of at least 6 major UK ISPs. After some research by Wikipedians, it appears that the image of the 1970s LP cover art of the Scorpions' 'Virgin Killer' album has been blocked because it was judged to be 'child pornography,' and all other attempts to access Wikimedia foundation sites from these ISPs are being proxied to only a few IP addresses. This is causing many problems for Wikipedia administrators, because much of the UK vandalism now comes from a single IP, which, when blocked, affects potentially hundreds of thousands of anonymous users who intend no harm and are utterly confused as to why they are no longer able to edit. The image was flagged by the the Internet Watch Foundation, which is funded by the EU and the UK government, and has the support of many ISPs and online institutions in the UK. The filter is fairly easy to circumvent simply by viewing the article in some other languages, or by logging in on the secure version of Wikipedia."
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UK ISPs Are Censoring Wikipedia

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  • Links (Score:5, Informative)

    by David Gerard (12369) <> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:30AM (#26020017) Homepage

    Facebook group against this []
    Pledgebank ISP boycott []
    Wikinews story []

    The technical press are swarming. Dunno if the national press are too as yet.

    The IWF apparently sought the advice of police before blocking. Now, the police in the UK are notorious for trying it on with censorship cases, so that doesn't mean the image is illegal.

    The album was released in 1976; child porn was illegalised in the UK in 1978. If the album was distributed in the UK since 1978 with that cover, it's probably legal.

    The album cover has been reprinted in many books. Most of those books are in the Briitsh Library. Are those now obscene?

    Question for all: Has this precise image ever come to court? In the UK, in the world?

    The IWF had it pointed out that they were censoring encyclopedia text, which was clearly not illegal. The IWF responded that they needed to block the page to block the image effectively. This is of course utterly ludicrous bollocks, but apparently that's the advice the IWF have received.

    They were also asked if they'd be censoring Amazon as well. They said they'd have to get back on that one.

    It's the clbuttic error [], but this time on a top-10 site for everyone.

    Disclaimer: I do press for Wikipedia/Wikimedia in the UK as a volunteer (and I've been on my email and phone all last night to about 2am and today since 9am). However, I am not a WMF employee and cannot legally claim to speak for them, only as a volunteer editor.

  • by fibrewire (1132953) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:37AM (#26020075)
    an exerpt... "This explains a lot if true; we seem to have multiple providers all simultaneously setting up a transparent proxy on Wikimedia, and only Wikimedia. In a way I hope it's not true because it means a media shitstorm, but... meh. Someone ought to contact, er, whoever the relevant authorities are."
  • Get a refund (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:40AM (#26020097)

    my isp is filtering it :]

    Then you should ask for a refund. They are not providing the internet to you (as I assume they advertised), so you deserve a full refund.

    Of course, good luck finding a better ISP :)

  • by tmk (712144) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:50AM (#26020177)
    I have tested a proxy from UK. The article [] returned an empty page, but the image [] could be accessed directly without any problem. Other report problems with the image and the article, costumers of one provider get an actual error message with an explanation why a page was blocked.

    UK users, please tell us what you can see.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:51AM (#26020193)

    It's not just about this single article. Since there are only a few proxies guess what happens when I just tried to create an account on English Wikipedia:

    Visitors to Wikipedia using your IP address have created 6 accounts in the last 24 hours, which is the maximum allowed in this time period. As a result, visitors using this IP address cannot create any more accounts at the moment.

    I couldn't also use password recovery function for my old account because:

    Your IP address is blocked from editing, and so is not allowed to use the password recovery function to prevent abuse.

    THIS is serious.

  • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:56AM (#26020235) Journal

    Under UK law, an image of a naked child is usually considered child pornography; context is irrelevant. Garda (the Irish police) reported that, between 2000-2004, 44% of "child pornography" cases in Ireland involved images which depicted no sexual activity whatsoever*. Child pornography laws in Ireland are very similar to those of the UK.

    In a strict legal sense, this censorship is justified; the problem is the law itself, which should not define nudity as "pornography". The frequently used term "child abuse images" is used to invoke strong emotions and discredit those who disagree with the current laws. Don't forget that if the IWF fail to maintain outrage over child pornography, they'll lose their funding.

    I have written a detailed summary of UK child pornography laws, here []

    * The content of indecent images []

  • by Kindaian (577374) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:57AM (#26020243) Homepage
    They are a registered charity in UK. SO, it only need UK citizens to make the move to have that status removed! As a charity they are entitled to several TONS of fiscal advantages... That you pay with your taxes. If there is anything I'm against is ANY kind of censorship... And filtering content is just a camouflaged way to do it. ;) p.s.- This message is protected by free speech and free opinion laws. Also the opinions are mine and mine alone and don't carry anything more then my opinions and facts that are of public knowledge. All judicial complains about this post have to be settled in an arbitration court in Lisbon/Portugal.
  • by FugitiveMind (1423373) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:59AM (#26020267)

    Your suspicions about a proxy server are correct.

    See: []

  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:01AM (#26020287) Journal

    ... and not IP/domain based, can you guys in the UK use this HTTPS page? []

    You can also substitute "wikipedia" in the above URL for Wikimedia Foundation's other projects to access them using SSL. e.g. [] for Wikisource. To use them in other languages, simple replace "en" with another language code (e.g. "de" or "ja").

  • Re:Angry Be Customer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pentagram (40862) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:04AM (#26020327) Homepage

    Now I am wondering which ISP to move to. Obviously anyone with Phorm is right out (BT, for instance), as is anyone with a strict download cap. Any suggestions?

    How strict is strict?

    I've found the UK Free Software Network, UKFSN [], to be pretty good provided you can mostly sort your own techy problems out. Plus they're specifically anti-Phorm and all profits go towards funding Free Software, if you like that sort of thing.

  • Re:Angry Be Customer (Score:3, Informative)

    by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:15AM (#26020405) Journal

    Update, a reply from Be. (I complained about this several hours ago.)

    Dear FourthAge, Thank you for contacting us and please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. We expect an official statement on this case to be published as soon as possible. In the mean time we would appreciate your patience. Best regards, The Be* Team

  • Re:Links (Score:2, Informative)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:32AM (#26020565) Homepage Journal

    Obscene ( and other ) materials don't get grandfathered in when the laws are changed.

    If they 'move the bar' then existing materials may just become illegal. ( not saying that is the case here, but just because it was distributed in the past doesn't mean it can now )

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:53AM (#26020793)

    Wikipedia is not the publisher. If I'd a dollar for every time someone suggested suing them, or out-and-out tried to, I'd be rich enough to afford a username.

    If anyone is to be prosecuted, they'd have to dig up details of who originally uploaded the image.

  • * The content of indecent images []

    I thank all the gods for the Slashdot link location notifier.

  • Re:That's OK. (Score:3, Informative)

    by makomk (752139) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:57AM (#26020837) Journal
    Actually, if this had happened a year or so ago, Be would probably have blocked Wikipedia in its entirety - I understand they blocked all servers hosting a page on the IWF blacklist back then because they didn't have the infrastructure in place to just block individual pages yet. This apparently had some interesting side-effects, such as several free hosting providers being blocked in their entirety. (I believe this is no longer the case, thankfully.)
  • by SlashBugs (1339813) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:59AM (#26020853)

    According to the IWF, the body that compiles the list of child porn for UK ISPs to block:

    "The law on images of child sexual abuse is clear. It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children in the United Kingdom.

    As a guide, the word 'indecent' means any images of children, under 18 years of age, involved in a sexual pose or activity."

    Obviously there's some subjectivity there, but if an adult woman was in the same pose with her genitals only just hidden by a photoshop trick, I expect that many people would agree that it is a "sexual pose". So whatever you think of the moral argument here, they seem to be within the letter of the law.

    Note that the UK has different laws to the USA. In the UK, an image without sexual contact can still be indecent (and hence illegal) if a jury decides that it is. They're not subject to the same protection that the First Amendment gives to the same images in the USA.

  • by amazeofdeath (1102843) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:09AM (#26020931)

    Amazon has the same image, and will even sell you the record: []

    Are they now CP distributers?

  • Re:That's OK. (Score:3, Informative)

    by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:11AM (#26020951)
    Wikipedia has to stop vandalism, the ISPs are to blame for not configuring their proxy correctly. Wikipedia is doing nothing to stop you editing articles as a logged in user or over thier ssl version.
  • by henni16 (586412) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:12AM (#26020965)

    "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation" - quote from Mein Kampf.....

    From what I found on the net, that's not from "Mein Kampf" - except for the first sentence, but that was used in an entirely different (racist) context.

    I would be interested if someone knows the origin of that quote to be sure that it's real (looks useful against "think of the children" propaganda).
    So far Google found someone random giving "Hitler, 1943" as a source, but that's pretty weak..

  • Re:Angry Be Customer (Score:3, Informative)

    by beebware (149208) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:01PM (#26021343) Homepage
    UKFSN (or any other powered ISP) doesn't filter, supports IPv6, is anti-phorm and much more besides!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:39PM (#26021673)

    Don't bother with link to the other site, either. "" sounds innocent enough, but it still appears to be a pro-paederasty wiki.

  • Re:That's OK. (Score:2, Informative)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:49PM (#26021799) Journal

    Indeed - and with 11,695 hits in the last hour [], it's now the most popular article.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:58PM (#26021887)

    "Who are you" contains the lyric "who the fuck are you". Interestingly it wasn't censored by the BBC at the time, although the sex pistols (Townsend wrote the song after a meeting with Steve Jones) were. IIRC, Money also has a swear word in it and similarly escaped censorship at the time.

    There's increasing regulatory enforcement at the moment in the UK. Post Brand-Gate, BBC producers have to complete a 30-odd question form before broadcasting anything. Behind it all is a grand plan to censor the internet, the game has been put it play by more aggressive enforcement of traditional media (see games ratings etc).

    Good luck to those offensive twats who think they're going to restrict my right to use anglo-fucking-saxon or cunting-latin derived words as I see fit!

  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @02:46PM (#26023057)
    You are kidding. In the US, "simple nudity" of a child in a photograph is fine, but sexually suggestive posing, situation or similar is what makes something classified as child porn. There's a lot that can be done in the chasm between "nudity" and "penetration" that will get you in trouble.
  • by ribuck (943217) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @04:07PM (#26023883) Homepage

    people have been arrested (I don't know if convicted) over family photos of kids at bathtime etc.

    The newsreader Julia Somerville was arrested over pictures of her 7-year-old daughter in the bath.

    She was interrogated for three days, I think I recall, before she was released. I wondered at the time if she would have got off so easily if she wasn't a public figure. []

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:53PM (#26028235)

    Wikipedia child image censored

    A decision by a number of UK internet providers to block a Wikipedia page showing an image of a naked girl has angered users of the popular site. []

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang