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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) <slashdot@davidgerar d . c o.uk> on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:30AM (#26020017) Homepage

    Facebook group against this [facebook.com]
    Pledgebank ISP boycott [pledgebank.com]
    Wikinews story [wikinews.org]

    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 [today.com], 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.

    • Oh, and Blind Faith by Blind Faith and Houses of the Holy, also depicting nude underage persons, are still readily available in any high street CD store in the UK.

      It is clearly false that all images of an unclothed person under the age of consent (16 in the UK) is automatically child porn and illegal. However, that's the rule the IWF works to.

      Like DRM, if anyone works out there's an IWF and how it works, then they've already lost. They're tolerated precisely as long as they target only clearly illegal mat

  • Heh.. I am behind the filter. Check here [wikipedia.org] to see if you are. Damn Virgin Media..

  • Congratulations on trying to shape Internet access. Just imagine if something actually IMPORTANT came along the UK didn't want you to see!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phoenix321 (734987) *

      And half the people in here are actually discussing if this lousy photo is in fact child pornography or not.

      Freedom may have gotten bad press recently, but do we seriously need to filter the whole freakin' internet because of indecent pictures?

      As both seem to be conflicting goals at the bottom of the problem, what do we do about it?

      Is protection of children really, truly, positively more important than free dissemination of information?

      Internet filtering is a digital issue and as such only works on an all-o

      • by computational super (740265) on Monday December 08, 2008 @12:04AM (#26027725)
        Is protection of children really, truly, positively more important than free dissemination of information?

        It's more important than anything. Far more important than any freedom you might think you deserve. Dude - little children are dying while you whine about freedom.

        Well, ok, they're not dying. It just sounds better than "little children are being naked."

        Well, actually - they are dying, all over the world, from starvation, and disease, and neglect, and lots of other stuff. But nobody cares about that. Because there's no perverts involved in that.

  • 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."
  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nicnab (1000987) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:38AM (#26020077)
    I'm so glad. This is clearly a step that will relieve many children from suffering. I think we should stop talking about child abuse now and move on to the next big problem. Let's now censor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism [wikipedia.org] and thus end and finally win the war on terror. It's about time because I can't stand hearing the phrase anymore.
  • ..people taking law enforcement into their own hands. Because "the internet is free to roam", or what is the premise here? ISPs still have too much power. It sort of plays into the net neutrality issue for me.

    It reminds me of how some trolls who were constantly trolling me on IRC recently, when asked about their behaviour, replied to me "well, it's the internet!" (i.e. "deal with it"). This is not much better. I'd treat these ISPs as trolls, block them from my servers altogether, and that's that (that is
  • 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 tmk (712144) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:50AM (#26020177)
    I have tested a proxy from UK. The article [wikipedia.org] returned an empty page, but the image [wikipedia.org] 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 jimicus (737525) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:08AM (#26020351)

      Virgin Media user - they just drop the connection so it looks like the website you're connecting to has some sort of problem.

      Absolutely despicable - I'm less bothered about the censorship aspect than I am about the "breaking the Internet" aspect. If they're going to go dropping random connections because they don't like what may be transmitted in the packet, how on Earth am I meant to reliably troubleshoot any internet issues?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 muffen (321442) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:50AM (#26020179)
    It's on the register at least [theregister.co.uk]
    I do hope it hits mainstream media like the BBC, checked it just now but no mention of it.

    Makes me remember the quote that was posted in this [slashdot.org] thread:
    "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.....

    Seriously though, do they actually believe that pedophiles are sitting and watching that one image on wikipedia?
    ...which by the way, you can find quite easily if you just make a search on google [google.com]. Yet another example of something dumb that affects people who have nothing to do with child pornography, and does absolutely nothing for people that are interested in it.
    • by pbhj (607776)

      ...which by the way, you can find quite easily if you just make a search on google [google.com].

      I'm pretty sure a Google search can lead to umpteen pages that when viewed cause the observer to break UK laws (and that probably holds true for most developed nations).

      Such an observation has no bearing on the legality of anything, nor should it.

    • by henni16 (586412) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @12:12PM (#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..

  • Angry Be Customer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:53AM (#26020215) Journal

    I've already complained from their contacts page [bethere.co.uk]. 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?

    Like everyone else here, it's not that I want to look at child porn, but rather that I object on principle to censorship. I didn't realise I was helping to fund this sort of thing [iwf.org.uk] with my broadband subscription

    Extreme example I know, but today it's "criminally obscene content" and "incitement to racial hatred", and tomorrow it's the British equivalents of "Tianamen Square" and "Democracy". If I have a choice, I'm not funding that.

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

      by Pentagram (40862) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:04AM (#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 [ukfsn.org], 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FourthAge (1377519)

      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

    • by pbhj (607776)

      Like everyone else here [...] I object on principle to censorship.

      I'm not that bothered.

      Just saying.

  • Simply routes around it. This is what everybody does in China.

  • by Brian Ribbon (986353) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:56AM (#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 [newgon.com]

    * The content of indecent images [attractedtochildren.org]

  • by Kindaian (577374) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:57AM (#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 gzipped_tar (1151931) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @11:01AM (#26020287) Journal

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

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Main_Page [wikimedia.org]

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

    • yes, this is possibly the worst "block" ever. even <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Virgin_Killer">this</a> works. A simple greasemonkeys script can easily get round it too

      something like...

      // @include http:*wikipedia.org*
      // @include https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/*

      var allLinks, thisLink, change;
      var banned = [];
      banned = ["action=edit","Virgin_Killer"];

      allLinks = document.evaluate('//a[@href]',document,null,XPathResult
  • I'm in the UK and I can't access the page. I am not so bothered about that more than the fact that it provides no mention of why its blocked. I would have no problem with them saying "It's blocked because of..." but to just blank it totally, is crap.

    To view it, just google virgin killers and then look at the cached version. When will the idiots learn that this is the internet. There is always a way round it.

    Also I think the strysand effect may well be helping the sales skyrocket.

    • by phr1 (211689)

      > Also I think the strysand effect may well be helping the sales skyrocket.

      The version of the record with that picture has been out of print for many years. They switched it over to a picture of the (fully clothed) band. The record itself may well be out of print by now.

  • Congrats to UK, now they have freed people of UK from child pornography!

    Are we running out of terrirists and actual child pornographers so bad that someone actually has to be given salary for censoring Wikipedia?

    I'd guess even UK could do much better with using the money to for example burning it and warming their houses than this.

  • 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.

  • Maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lazarian (906722) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @03:17PM (#26022719)
    they should ban the Pulitzer winning image of that young girl from Vietnam running naked, screaming after being burnt by a napalm attack as well. I mean, she was NAKED! How horrible that people are allowed to view something like that. It's sick!
  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Monday December 08, 2008 @12:53AM (#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.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7770456.stm [bbc.co.uk]

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