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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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  • Re:Affected (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pablomme (1270790) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:35AM (#26020067)

    BTW, the offending image is viewable in Amazon [images-amazon.com].

  • Re:That's OK. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:44AM (#26020133) Journal

    Totally agree. I'm on one of these ISPs, and I'm appalled by this censorship. I'd like to take it a step further though. Organise a DNSRBL along the lines of SpamHaus that contains a list of IPs on ISPs that perform censorship. Redirect any port 80 requests from people in that IP range to a page explaining that, their ISP is only allowing them access to some arbitrary subest of the Internet, rather than the whole Internet, they are now allowed to view your page. Make it easy for other organisations to use. When you have a choice between Virgin Media at £25/month for a small subset of the Internet, or a small ISP at £30/month but with access to Wikipedia and all of the other sites that value freedom then it's not such an easy choice as when price is the only issue.

    Profit making sites probably can't afford to join in (unless they have a left-leaning demographic and use 'we oppose censorship' as a marketing gimmick), but there are lots of non-commercial sites on the 'net that would.

  • by Virtualetters (980728) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:47AM (#26020159)
    I read about the cover in a Cracked magazine list of the worst album covers ever. The image, or a censored version of it, appears in the article there. At any rate, within 5 minutes I had found my way over to Wikinews (on a completely different surfing tangent) and discovered the UK censorship story. Now curious, I headed over to Mininova to find that, sure enough, Scorpions torrents were suddenly hot stuff (lots of new torrents, tons of activity on older torrents). I'm not sure how this will reflect on album sales but it may just be that the stupid idea of putting a naked little girl on the cover has worked out to be a pretty damn good way of selling albums...even if it took over 20 years to start working.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:48AM (#26020171)

    If you read the article, you will find that the depicted girl had no problem with the image, when asked 15 years after publication. And by the way, I disagree that this should be classified as child porn. It's not porn. It's nudity. This is akin to Berlusconi ordering to repaint a 300-year old painting [reuters.com] because it depicted a naked breast and happened to be hanging in his office.

  • Re:Links (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:49AM (#26020173)

    According to an article by German computer magazine c't, the image itself has not been blocked, only the article referencing it.
    The article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer [wikipedia.org]
    The image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Virgin_Killer.jpg [wikipedia.org]

    Google knows this image as well: http://images.google.de/images?q=virgin%20killer [google.de]

    Not only is this another example of blocking the wrong thing, it is also an example of the Streisand effect in action. Who here knew about this image before ISPs tried to block it?

    This incident demonstrates that individual URLs, even on very high-traffic sites, can technically be censored with devices which are already installed at UK ISPs. This should prompt more web server operators to enable SSL for all content (but it won't).

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:58AM (#26020255) Journal

    I know that the girl didn't mind. It doesn't matter these days - remember, these days, we (the society) convict children for producing and distributing child porn when they make and share nude pictures of themselves!

    To remind: I'm not saying that the censors are morally right here. I'm saying that they are legally right. Singling this one case of stupidity is good, but we should really point out the root of the problem, which is the laws on the books. We should fix those, rather then fighting the symptoms.

  • by Kagura (843695) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:59AM (#26020265)

    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,'

    Actually, reading the wikipedia article on Virgin Killer [wikipedia.org], it seems that it is bonafide child pornography. Or, regardless of your definition of "pornography", there's a naked, under-age* girl on the cover.


    *Not all countries have the same under-age pornography laws

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:17AM (#26020425) Homepage Journal
    "Or, regardless of your definition of "pornography", there's a naked, under-age* girl on the cover."

    Well, are pictures of kids in non-sexual settings child porn? Plenty of parents still take pics of their kids in the tub...etc.

    Now...granted...this album cover, well, could be taken as a bit more suggestive that those type of pics, but, she is not in any sexual situation, so is it child porn? Or, these days, does any nude picture of someone under (age in you area) constitute child porn?

    At any rate..I'm guessing they will have a problem with:

    Houses of the Holy [wikipedia.org]with the kids climbing up the rocks

    And Blind Faith [wikipedia.org]'s album.

    Sigh...are we going backwards or what? These albums have been out forever, and are classic....why are people having such a fit now?

    Then again....on the classic rock station the other day...I was shocked to hear them censor Pink Floyd's "Money", The Who's "Who Are You", Steve Miller Band "Jet Airliner"....and a couple of others. These songs have been played since I was a kid....why are they censoring them NOW?!?!?

    OH well...time for juice and coffee....and You kids get off my lawn!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:20AM (#26020459)

    virgin media [virgin.com] is one of blocking ISPs - i think their stand on this is pretty clear...

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:25AM (#26020495) Journal

    Whether or not that image should be considered child porn should be up to the courts to decide.

    And from January, according to Government guidance [justice.gov.uk], it seems the IWF are going to be handling reports of "extreme pornography" [theregister.co.uk] (that criminalises possession of adult images considered "extreme" and "disgusting", even those involving consenting adults, staged acts, and screenshots from legal films), which is broader and far vaguer than child porn law - so if they start blocking anything that might "potentially" be extreme, I worry that this could mean a lot more sites being blocked.

    This also shows that they are willing to blacklist mainstream sites - well, at least they get points for being consistent I suppose (there`s nothing worse than selective enforcement) - but the point is that images that might "potentially" come under the extreme porn law have been found on mainstream non-porn sites. Now even if it may be the case that such a site would never be prosecuted, this shows that the IWF may happily censor any site that has a potentially extreme image on it, no matter what site it is on, or for what purpose it is there for.

    It is also misleading that the site returns a fake 404 message - Virgin Media do this, although apparently Demon do not [wikinews.org]. Is this something decided on a per-ISP level, and something worth complaining to them about?

    It's not like Wikipedia is hosted in some lawless country - it's hosted in the US, which has similar laws on child porn, and if it was really a problem it would be easy to cooperate with the US to remove the images.

    Amazon also has these images [amazon.com], which are not blocked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:36AM (#26020605)
    Someone arrest Robert Plant for his part in the cover art of Led Zep's Houses of the Holy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houses_of_the_Holy#Album_sleeve_design [wikipedia.org]
  • by Fred_A (10934) <fred AT fredshome DOT org> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:38PM (#26021159) Homepage

    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.

    An adult woman in the same setting would be seen as being in a "sexual", or rather, possibly, slightly suggestive pose, because she's potentially a mate for half the population. Whereas a 10 year old girl isn't (only to a tiny fringe).

    By your reasoning a "naked" sheep shouldn't appear either because it would be seen as sexually stimulating by the few zoophiles.

    The bottom of it is rather that some people are getting hysterical with the whole children thing and should go take a shower instead of spending ages looking for useless stuff to censor.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:49PM (#26021257) Journal

    Entered into the IWF website, in the description field of the link above:

    I have not visited this link myself, as it allegedly contains an image that the IWF has already flagged as indecent and censored (through UK ISPs). Someone else posted this link on an online discussion forum where the original image was being debated. On that same forum it was highlighted that this image is also available on Google's image cache, on the Amazon.com website and on many other music and shopping sites across the world.
    Can you please treat all instances of this image identically. If it is truly indecent (I don't know, because I haven't viewed it) then ban it everywhere. If it has been banned by mistake (or stupidity) then obviously unban it from the source currently banned (i.e. Wikipedia).

    The IWF is vulnerable to public opinion, and this instance is likely to cause poor publicity. Please act promptly and with absolute certainty as to the correct legal interpretation of this image.

    If you do decide it isn't indecent after all, do let me know - I'm curious to know what all the fuss is about. It's clearly either an edge case, or something's gone wrong with your internal controls, and as a user of the Internet in the UK I'm keen to find out that it's the former.

  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @02:10PM (#26022021) Homepage Journal
    Orange user here -- your second link to the image was viewable earlier this morning but is now giving the same "Object not found" error as the wikipedia page itself. Someone is busy updating the lists...

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • by Zadaz (950521) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @04:18PM (#26023393)

    Well lets face it: Two days ago if anyone had seen that photo they wouldn't have thought anything of it. Not that many would have seen it.

    And now the whole Internet is looking at it and discussing its sexual/erotic potential.

    Nicely done.

  • Re:That's OK. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jurily (900488) <[jurily] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @04:52PM (#26023753)

    That link you gave is broken :)

    "This site you have attempted to access is identified by the Internet Watch Foundation as a site containing
    potentially illegal content. Access has been blocked.

    Deliberate attempts to access this or related sites may result in you committing a serious criminal offence."

    Vodafone UK.

    Note the language though, emphasis mine.

  • by dr80085 (1270590) on Monday December 08, 2008 @12:42AM (#26028101)
    This is all quite reminiscent of the recent hoo-haa concerning Australian photographer Bill Henson's photographs of girls.

    http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/artists/18/Bill_Henson/ [roslynoxley9.com.au]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Henson [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.billhenson.net.au/ [billhenson.net.au]

    The worrying thing is that the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd thought they were despicable, without actually seeing them.
    Doesn't bode so well for Australia...

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.

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