Here in the UK, of course, we have full, unfettered access to the Internet. After all, we value and uphold freedom of expression and that includes the freedom of British citizens to have the same access to the internet as the people of France, Germany, Italy, Australia and America. Or, at least, so I had assumed...
Today I discovered that this assumption is incorrect. There exists something called The Internet Watch Foundation whose task it is to “see the end of websites that profit by selling images of child sex abuse”. This sounds like a laudable enterprise to which nobody could seriously object. However, this Foundation has now decided that Wikipedia falls within this definition. As far as I am aware, Wikipedia certainly does not make a profit by selling images of child sex abuse. But that fact has not presented the Internet Watch Foundation from blocking access to a Wikipedia article. This block affects, apparently, 95% of UK internet users. Curiously, I am among the remaining 5% who continue to have gained access to the offending article.
And what, you may wonder, has caused this outrage? The blocked Wikipedia article contains an image of the cover of a heavy-metal album from 1976, ‘Virgin Killer’, by The Scorpions which features the picture of a naked young girl. This is deemed by the Internet Watch Foundation to be a "potentially illegal child sexual abuse image". If you have full access to Wikipedia you may decide on whether or not you agree (or you may, of course, exercise your personal choice not to view the page) by visiting the relevant Wikipedia article. If you haven’t, you can find the same image on numerous other sites including Amazon.com. I’d be interested to know what the girl herself (who must, by now, be a woman of fairly mature years) thinks of all this.
I must admit I find it odd that this 32-year old album cover is considered to be quite appropriate to be sold to Americans but is thought to be corrupting to us Brits. Whatever your views on this particular image, what I find more disturbing by far is the discovery that Britain has an Internet censorship organization in place which can arbitrarily decide to which bits of the Internet the citizens of Great Britain may be permitted access.
What next? Caravaggio maybe?