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Section :: Rants and Raves

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Wikipedia Censorship Removed (kind of)

But what else is censored in Britain...?
Wednesday 10 December 2008.

I note that the British Internet censors, the Internet Watch Foundation, have reversed their decision to block access to a Wikipedia article as reported here on the blog a couple of days ago.

Initially they banned a page about an album by heavy metal band, The Scorpions, on the basis that an album cover that was produced back in the ‘70s was a "potentially illegal child sexual abuse image".

Following much adverse publicity relating to this decision, the Foundation has now decided to unblock access to Wikipedia on the grounds that "in 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."

This strikes me as a feeble and cowardly decision. If they sincerely believe that the image represents “potentially illegal child sexual abuse”, in what way does its age and availability alter that fact? If these are sufficient criteria, they will no doubt welcome all widely available images of child sexual abuse as long as they are not new.

Just as worrying is the fact that this body can make decisions that block the access of UK internet users to pages which the IWF in its arrogance, thinks are unfit for us to see. The arbitrary nature of its decisions is well illustrated by the initial decision to block a Wikipedia article and the subsequent decision to unblock it when people found out it was blocked in the first place.

What I’d like to know is: what other sites are being blocked to UK internet users? In Britain at the moment two phrases are regularly used to justify all manner of restrictions of freedom. These are ‘terrorism’ and ‘child sexual abuse’. The logic seems to be that no sane person would wish to encourage either activity and we should, therefore, be pleased to support any measures to prevent them. The case of the Wikipedia page highlights the risks we take in permitting censorship bodies to curtail our freedom. I’m sure their motives are good. But their methods and their judgment are questionable.

Curiously, the Foundation has concluded that the Scorpions album cover will not be deemed to be illegal if it is hosted outside the UK. But it may be so deemed if hosted inside the UK:

Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted abroad, will not be added to the list. Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted in the UK will be assessed in line with IWF procedures.



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