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Censorship Your Rights Online

IWF Backs Down On Wiki Censorship 226

jonbryce writes "The Internet Watch Foundation, guardians of the Great Firewall of Britain, have stopped censoring Wikipedia for hosting what they considered to be a child porn image. They had previously threatened to block Amazon for hosting the same image." Here is the IWF's statement, which credits the Streisand Effect for opening their eyes: " light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list. Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted abroad, will not be added to the list. ... IWF's overriding objective is to minimize the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect."
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IWF Backs Down On Wiki Censorship

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  • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:17PM (#26051609)

    Let's get it right; the IWF didn't say the page was porn; they said it was "potential illegal child sexual abuse." Most people seem to have assumed this was because the album cover artwork on the Wikipedia page [] included an image of a naked girl, but the reality is that IWF only wanted to protect children from the horrors of having to listen to anything released by the Scorpions.

    • by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <> on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#26051893) Homepage

      but the reality is that IWF only wanted to protect children from the horrors of having to listen to anything released by the Scorpions.

      Than and all they had to do is make a press release, and garner worldwide attention. Some of it negative, but think of all the increased support by religious types. This was just an elaborate marketing ploy on their behalf that is sure to increase donations to their coffers while providing free media coverage over such a nonstarter of a band, issue and picture.

      • by richlv ( 778496 )

        while in a way i appreciate your pick in the post 'subject', i feel it was not notable enough ;)
        on other hand, try to google 'streisand'. weird, i get "Streisand effect" as the 3rd hit. hi, barbara. feel like being on the wrong slice of celebrities ?

        • try to google 'streisand'. weird, i get "Streisand effect" as the 3rd hit. hi, barbara.

          Her "effect" is obviously more notable than her career. Don't blame Google for that.

          • Her "effect" is obviously more notable than her career

            No, just more relevant recently. That's like saying Heath Ledger is more notable than Jack Nicholson because Googling "the joker" shows four images of Heath as the Joker at the top of the page. (Heath was arguably the better Joker, but certainly not more notable than Jack, IMO).

            Google just gives more weight to recent events.

      • Hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

        by goldcd ( 587052 )
        If you wanted to get cynical over this, that's not the best approach to take.
        IWF is organization set up by ISPs. I believe their remit is to flag and block anything possibly illegal, allowing the legal/illegal argument to then be made (and any action taken). Their REAL purpose is to keep governments off the backs of ISPs - we're regulating ourselves, so you can leave us alone.
        New bit of law just rolling out (Jan '09) outlaws 'extreme porn' in the UK. Complete and utter knee-jerk, poorly thought out c
        • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @09:48PM (#26054461) Homepage Journal

          Everybody seems to be focused on the Scorpions Album Cover and its not the cover thats important, it's the now proven fact that the internet for the UK is filtered monitored and blocked!

          This event was a slip up, we were not supposed to know about the censorship and filtering going on. The big question in the UK is what else is being blocked and why? People outside the UK should know that the UK is being monitored and filtered (People in the UK should know too but probably the majority still don't). What is being blocked in your locale? It is highly unlikely that any of us are getting an unfiltered service.

          How much of what we read is honest reporting and how much propaganda? what don't we get to read whats missing ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coastwalker ( 307620 )

      I see that the "page not found" blocking still seems to be in effect, at least for my connection.

      This is a welcome move announcing that it was a mistake to block this particular instance. It is the height of foolishness to block an encyclopedia, particularly for content that has been in the public domain for thirty years or so.

      Thought crime should not be something that the free world invokes as a weapon against criminality. We have fought wars with states that created the idea of thought crime and it would

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mdm-adph ( 1030332 )

        You're in the UK, I presume? It could be because Wikipedia was in turn blocking a lot of the UK -- someone more technical minded than me can explain that part of it. Guess it'll take a bit for them to remove that block, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So great news

        Are you reading the same summary as me?

        IWF's overriding objective is to minimize the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect.

        Note that IWF said "oops, our censorship didn't work this time", not "censorship is wrong".

        I don't think this is good news. I think it's bad news, as opposed to worse news: the IWF will continue trying to censor the Internet, it'll just be a little smarter about it.

        Let's also be clear about the distinction between pedophilia, child porn and child molestation; one is a sexual preference, the second is sexual imagery and the third is sexual activities.

        In my world view,

    • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:42PM (#26052001) Homepage Journal
      Why stop there?

      What about the disgusting child porn proudly features on Nirvana's Nevermind album, Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, Blind Faith's self-titled album []; also Van Halen's Balance [] album cover, The Coppertone Girl [], and all the Family guy jokes about child sex and bestiality(Stewie: "I'd do her, do her, lose the pigtails and we'll talk, ugh who hasn't done her?" as well as Brian's relationships with human women), The now well-discussed showing of Bart's pecker in the Simpsons movie, The Winger song "Seventeen", The Police song "Don't Stand...".

      Hmmph. I guess we're all guilty of possessing and consuming what people call "child pornography".
    • but the reality is that IWF only wanted to protect children from the horrors of having to listen to anything released by the Scorpions.

      So now they're going to start having automatic pre-set filters on radio stations for when any activist decides he doesn't like a particular song?

  • Good Grief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:17PM (#26051611) Journal

    omeone better start blocking this bit of smut from that den of molesters at Wikipedia: []

    Sick, I tell you, sick!

  • The end times? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kandenshi ( 832555 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:21PM (#26051685)

    huh, a censorship organisation that's capable of acquiring new information, and using that to change their actions.

    I didn't think that I'd live long enough to see the day where such a thing would happen.

    Isn't there someplace in Revelations where they mention this?
    "And yea, look ye unto the people running the anti-child porn organizations on the intertubes. For they shall learn the error of their ways (temporarily) and it shall be a sign that the end of all things is upon you."

  • Still... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:22PM (#26051699)
    They still didn't admit it was wrong, they said their plan didn't work.
    They are also admitting that kiddie porn images can be copied and transferred all over the world with no effort.
    Unfortunately, I bet they still think it's possible to censor thoughts out of existence.
    • Not to mention there was nothing to indicate they intended to block people from connecting to tor, and everybody knows what kind of sites are publicly talked about and linked to among the hidden services. Censoring cp sites is actually counter-productive since I'd bet most of the stuff on the regular web are LEA traps.

      I don't believe they think they can censor things out of existence; I think they're more about making the masses believe they're taking step to protect the children and clean up the net than
  • I'm Relieved (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenyai ( 1422451 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:25PM (#26051769)
    This particular situation was so ridiculous, I'm glad they realized what fools they were making of themselves. I mean, if the image had been hurting anyone in any way at all, I would have a different opinion. But as we have heard, the girl in question has stated herself that she's fine with it, was fine with it back then, and her parents were fine with it back then. Plus the fact that it's been available since the 1970s, in my opinion, means that it is actually a culturally significant work of art. Etc. Censorship is such an old issue, you would think people would realize when these policing agencies are crossing the line.
    • Re:I'm Relieved (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rhizome ( 115711 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:11PM (#26053041) Homepage Journal

      you would think people would realize when these policing agencies are crossing the line.

      Unfortunately, your enthusiasm will fall flat when you learn that the policy still remains in effect and it's just this one case that has been corruptly allowed to remain. This is how they get their cake, eat it, and have the IWF legitimized. I imagine the meeting went something like "OK, if we give them this one, their complaints about the general policy will lose force."

  • child molestors... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gd23ka ( 324741 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:29PM (#26051811) Homepage

    The only thing that I find hilarious about this is that the people behind groups like the "Internet Watch Foundation"
    are from the same social strata that regularly gives us child molestors of the likes such as Marc Dutroux in Belgium
    along with his cronies in the Belgian Government.

    But of course the child pornography / pornography / minority rights etc. etc. debate is just the right orbital slot
    for the popular indignation needed to fuel the underlying agenda which is to monitor and restrict free thought
    and free speech, I think many of us not so profane anymores have already realized this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by badfish99 ( 826052 )
      Well, if you are a pervert and want unfettered access to the worst images the internet can provide, what better plan than to set yourself up as a censor. You don't even have to search for the dirt: people will come and tell you the URLs to look at!
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:29PM (#26051825) Homepage

    ...not in this instance anyway. These people were effectively forced to see the light and had to defend its indefensible actions. Finding that they could not and that, as the streissand effect goes, causes more attention to the matter than they were seeking.

    I'm not sure what a better tag might be, but the image of cockroaches running away hiding from the light might be more apt in this case. These people seeking to censor too much find themselves in indefensible positions when light is shined on them.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:30PM (#26051833)
    ...but they were all underdeveloped.
  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:30PM (#26051837) Homepage

    What else have they censored that dont have the "name recognition" like Wiki or Amazon?

    • by FourthAge ( 1377519 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:36PM (#26051919) Journal

      I think that ISPs should be required to notify us when pages are censored. This is a "you've been censored" page from Demon []; but there's nothing equivalent from Be, Virgin, Sky and the rest.

      • by robably ( 1044462 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:19PM (#26053147) Journal
        I emailed VirginMedia (my ISP) on Sunday about them censoring Wikipedia, and got a reply today. I asked why they showed a generic error page for the blocked URL instead of explaining they had blocked it, I asked them about the IWF, if they would provide an uncensored internet connection to those who asked, and if they provided a list of what else they were blocking.

        They denied that they "actively" block anything (?), and then suggested the blocked Scorpions page was a fault with Wikipedia or with my computer settings. I'm looking for a new ISP.

        Reply from VirginMedia:
        Thank you for your e-mail dated 7 December 2008.

        We're sorry to hear you feel we have censored our internet connection, we are a part of the Internet Watch Foundation and this is a common code of practise between many service providors, we do not activley block content and do not have a list of blocked content nor do we provide a censored or uncensored Broadband service. Sites with restricted content may be blocked for many reasons, these include the providor of the website or service, your internet security settings or if the site has been removed or disabled or is having technical issues.

        If you have further queries regarding this matter or any other issue, please use the link provided below:
        Please note if you reply directly to this e-mail your response will not be received.
        Kind regards
        Customer Concern
        E-Contact Team
        Virgin Media
        • Looks like an automated message.

          Did you follow through with the instructions given in the closing?

          • More than likely they had their PR department write up a canned script. If it was anything like the Internet companies that I have worked for in the past, any escalations to "Management" or whatever will likely go into the virtual recycle bin.

        • "Virgin Media"

          Does anyone else find the irony of the company name and the topic at hand amusing?

        • Wow

          we do not activley block content

          Sites with restricted content may be blocked for many reasons


          nor do we provide a censored or uncensored Broadband service

          "Neither A nor NOT A"... This logically evaluates to:

          nor do we provide a Broadband service

    • by Johnno74 ( 252399 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @06:06PM (#26052283)

      I don't know what happens in the UK and the rest of Europe, but I know here in australia they have already passed an amendment to the freedom of information act to *exclude* the internet blacklist from any FOI requests. []

      Yep, thats right. The AU govt is planning on increasing the blacklist of banned websites by an order of magnitude (that they will admit to, but now it will be difficult to tell), and they have taken steps to make sure there can be no oversight

      We all know how well this works, don't we. []

      That scares me more than the actual censorship.

  • You'd think... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:32PM (#26051869)

    ...that an internet organisation that's been around since 1996 would understand the internet and would've realised the storm that censoring Wikipedia would cause and the resultant effect.

    But frankly, to me there's a more important issue here- the IWF has accepted they're wrong which raises the question as to whether procedures need to be put in place to prevent mistakes happening again. The IWF is in a position of immense power and failures to perform their duties correctly need to have repercussions.

    There have been various conspiracy theories as to whether the IWF was testing the water in light of Britain's new extreme porn law which makes BDSM and such illegal and hence whether the IWF was seeing what the response would be if they were to start filtering this out- particularly as scenes that could be deemed to be extreme porn exist in many common and publicly accesible places. To filter extreme porn as they do child porn they'd most certainly have to go after a lot more mainstream sites, it would no longer be a case of simply filtering out underground sites that only a small minority of people who are already classed as criminals visit.

    Whatever the real aim of this was, whether it was simply a blunder or not, I hope for one thing- that the IWF now ensure they concentrate on what they're supposed to concentrate on, helping prevent child abuse and access to sites that really do gain money and so forth from such abuse and also that this has put to sleep any ideas of a power grab or increase in censorship to other, arguably harmless areas for the IWF.

    • Re:You'd think... (Score:5, Informative)

      by justinlee37 ( 993373 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:49PM (#26052077)

      Agreed. And that new law about S&M porn is pure moralistic censorship with a thin, fabricated "think of the women/children!" justification.

      Going after legitimate businesses like and is counterproductive to what SHOULD be the real concern: pornography that features nonconsensual acts.

      Those kinky porn models enjoy what they do and get paid well [] for it. In fact, if you check out the 6th preview video for all of the segments featured on, you'll notice that pretty much every model that does a shoot says they'd like to do it again. Which is probably pretty shocking to all of those censor-happy prudes in government, considering the subject matter and the fact that they themselves are probably not interested in such sex acts. Otherwise they'd have to realize how stupidly ridiculous all of this is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      the IWF has accepted they're wrong

      Well, the IWF didn't really say "sorry, we were wrong to classify that image as indecent" or even "sorry, we were wrong to censor that website". What they actually said was "oops, we tried to censor but failed." As such, they are merely saying that they have reversed the censoring simply because of the publicity and the overall failure in suppressing the image (quite the opposite: more people were exposed to the image as a result of the ban).

      This is hardly the admission of failure that many of us were lo

  • by wernst ( 536414 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#26051883) Homepage

    Before the efforts of Internet Watch Foundation, I had never seen the image they were all worked up about, which is at: [].

    And now, thanks to their tireless efforts to protect me from myself, I have seen it.

    Good work, IWF!

  • by Cathoderoytube ( 1088737 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:37PM (#26051927)
    In a later statement the IWF said 'Don't you worry, this is a minor setback. Rest assured, wherever there are naked children, we'll be watching, ready to pounce'
  • Pyrrhic victory (Score:2, Insightful)

    by owlnation ( 858981 )
    Now the only censorship of wikipedia is done by:

    1. Wikpedia admins
    2. Jimbo Wales personally
    3. Cabals
    4. The marketing and legal teams of Corporations
    5. Governments

    Still, one censorer less is something I suppose.
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:50PM (#26052091)

    "The Internet Watch Foundation, guardians of the Great Firewall of Britain...

    Wouldn't that be "Hadrian's Firewall" in this case?

  • by billsf ( 34378 ) <billsf&cuba,calyx,nl> on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:52PM (#26052107) Homepage Journal

    the Internet is much, much older than they are aware of, and for a reason. The Internet has always been a "nasty" and "krass" place. During most of its existence, as text only, maybe there was more left to the imagination? Its great to have all the added bandwidth, but not the added hassle of "do-gooders".

    Nobody is going to "regulate" or enforce their religious convictions here. Leave us alone!


  • Filtering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @05:55PM (#26052159) Homepage

    IWF has decided to make an exception for this particular image, but the underlying attitude that led to its blocking remains the same. If not for the public scrutiny this particular decision has prompted, the image in question would still be blocked. I find that very disturbing.

    The biggest problem I see with this sort of filtering is the fact that, at least for borderline cases, you rarely know whether the image being blocked is actually illegal. Usually it takes the due process of law to determine that a person producing an image has done something illegal, but with filtering all it takes to block an image is for the image to seem like child pornography. Whether it is or not is irrelevant. All that matters is the judgment of a private party.

  • What we have learnt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke ( 850482 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @06:11PM (#26052347)

    o That the people trying to censor net access in this country are not just idiots, they're incompetent idiots.

    o That the "blocks" that the major ISPs have in place are effectively useless; either they're incompetent as well, or (more likely) are paying lip-service to the whole idea by saying "yes, we subscribe to the IWF block-list" while using mechanisms a five-year-old could bypass.

    o That Chris Morris was right.

    Sometimes (as in the case of dodgy 70s album covers), this seems just a bit of a joke; but sometimes it isn't. During the early 90s spokesmen for the political wings of the terrorist organisations in the North of Ireland had to be re-voiced by actors, making interviews essentially impossible. I remember one occasion, after a particular gruesome bombing (many innocent people killed) when the spokesman concerned was able to hide behind the actor to get his message across without answering WHY his organisation supported this indiscriminate slaughter - the "censorship" rules had the exact opposite effect to what was intended.

    • The re-voicing by actors didn't make interviews impossible: it was the workaround for a law that was supposed to make them impossible, but just make the government look stupid.

      Someone spread the rumour that Gerry Adams (the leader of Sinn Fein) had a silly squeaky voice, and that his interviews actually sounded better when dubbed by a professional actor. Not true, of course, but it made the attempt at censorship look even more foolish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Inda ( 580031 )
      The thing I don't understand is why they're not targeting people offering real child porn?

      Last year I gave up moderating a hub on Direct Connect. One of the reasons was I couldn't be bothered banning users who were sharing child porn all the time. I'd come home from work, type in a list a 20 words relating to child porn and ban 10 out of 300 users for sharing this sort of crap. Before bed, I'd do the same. During the day, other mods would be keeping an eye out.

      We were a small hub of friends sharing 20 year
  • I still find a bitter taste in my mouth over this whole episode. I think I'd rather have seen this come to a conclusion with more judicial overview so that there is a clearer decision on what responsibilties the IWF should control, how the public should be made aware of blocks, and what appeals process exist. As it stands we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope the IWF dont screw something else up.

    I'd also prefer this to come to a larger debate about the merits of censoring images that are clearl

  • by Shadukar ( 102027 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @06:41PM (#26052661)

    Today from work (instead of working) I decided to check out the IWF website.

    Turns out Getbusi content filtering proxy is blocking their site as "porn"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jrumney ( 197329 )
      Thats probably that well known animal porn site "International Wildlife Fund". You want the other [] IWF [].
  • For the uninitiated: []
  • I wonder how much of an impact all the UK traffic to Wikipedia being proxied through their servers may have had, and whether that impact played any part in this sudden reversal. Wikipeda was certainly the highest traffic page they've tried to filter to date.

    • Lots of people also reported google to them, because the images were (of course) also in the google cache. Proxying google would have been a good test of their hardware.
  • The original IWF press release suggested that the "web page" at the blocked URL "was" a potentially illegal image. Whereas in reality, the main URL only contains HTML text -- and the image in question was only linked in and actually resided at another URL. This means material was blacklisted which was not alleged to be illegal in the UK. This wasn't just a side effect -- the HTML page was intentionally added to the list as well as the image itself.

    As a Wikipedia and Media Wiki contributor, I wrote to the

  • IWF's overriding objective is to minimize the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect.

    This fiasco only shows the true intent of the IWF. They should make the blacklist available so people are aware of what other non-violent, and non-pornographic images, text, etc are being censored.

  • by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @07:35PM (#26053309)

    Wikipedia says they do not censor. Yet they'll remove videos of male masturbation from -- the page on masturbation. They'll even remove images of people having sex and replace them with ridiculous drawings or drawings. They don't do that for other pages. Go to the page on a lion and they'll show you a big image, in colour, of a lion. No one says: "Well, a big image showing all the parts of the lion, and in colour, is just not necessary. Everyone knows what a lion is: A detailed image is not necessary to get the point across." But go to the Talk pages for fellatio or ejaculation and you'll see this exact argument used there. I would say they do censor. I think it's duplicitous of them to say that their official policy is "Wikipedia is not censored." And of course they censor child pornography from their pages, because it is illegal in Florida, where their main servers are.

  • by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @08:05PM (#26053641) Homepage

    I just attempted to view the Wikipedia entry for "Virgin Killer" (the Scorpions album), and my employer's proxy content filter (supplied by Blue Coat) still lists this particular Wikipedia page as blocked:

    Content Filter

    The page you have requested has been blocked by the Content Filter.

    One of the following categories that this site belongs to is filtered: "IWF-Restricted;Reference"

    Not sure if Blue Coat updated their records yet, but I'm about to complain to them about the content filter. This is the first time, incidentally, that I've seen any Wikipedia page blocked, though I've seen plenty of other asinine filters set up for other sites.

    And for the record, I'm nowhere near the UK -- this is in Phoenix, Arizona. Nice to see how someone else's "community standards" are being enforced on me, across national boundaries.

  • by CrypticKev ( 1322247 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2008 @10:32PM (#26054733)
    The IWF are the net nanny for the UK and EU. What gives them the right to 'censor by edit'? Their view of what is illegal is being imposed globally, which to my mind is an act of vandalism. Just because they don't approve doesn't mean every county does. If every county was to follow the IWFs lead, I suspect there wouldn't be too much content left on the net...
  • So given that image is legal (and she's clearly under age) then any new modifications of that image are legal, right (except for maybe the naughty bits hidden by the cracked glass).

    So you could modify her hair... or skin color... etc. for a million different legal photos.

    And then what about a new photo that is very similar.

    At the least- either it is child porn and should be censored or nothing involving a completely naked sub teen female alone that hides that tiny piece is child porn. The piece is obviousl

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian