Wikipedia Founder Blasts Nude Girl Censors

Jimmy Wales called out the Internet Watch Foundation in a British television interview.

K.C. Jones, Contributor

December 9, 2008

2 Min Read

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he has considered taking legal action against the group that blacklisted Wikipedia in the United Kingdom because of a nude photo on an album cover featured in one of its articles.

In an exclusive, Wales told Britain's Channel 4 that he thought of taking the group Internet Watch Foundation to court but learned that, since IWF is not a governing body, it may not be possible.

Over the weekend, the IWF put Wikipedia on a list of sites containing potentially illegal material because a user pointed out that an image of an underage nude girl on an article about the album Virgin Killer appeared to be child sexual abuse. German rock band the Scorpions released the album in 1976.

Using some local vernacular during the Channel 4 interview, Wales said the photo is "dodgy" but added that it was an artistic protest.

"But my concern isn't so much about the image -- it's the ambiguous way that they are behaving," he added. "It's not clear if they are over-reaching their authority."

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, said that 90% of ISPs in the United Kingdom block Web sites on IWF's list. Although IWF said it didn't intend to block all access to Wikipedia, U.K. volunteers have been unable to edit articles for the online encyclopedia and users have reported problems accessing the entire site.

"The Internet Watch Foundation were clearly over reaching their remit when they blocked the text page on Wikipedia -- there's nothing illegal about the description of the album," Wales told Channel 4 News technology correspondent Benjamin Cohen. "I'd also question their wisdom about trying to block the image itself."

Wales pointed to the fact that millions of people have viewed the image since the IWF blacklisted Wikipedia over it. "What are they going to do? Are they going to block all of the Web if it continues to be spread?" Wales asked.

Cohen pointed out that online retailers publish the image and asked Wales if he thought it was fair to target Wikipedia. "It's clearly unfair and reprehensible for them to go after some Web sites and not others," Wales said. "People are so up in arms now."

He added that the blacklist is not as bad as censorship in China but noted that 25% of Wikipedia's content comes from the United Kingdom.

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