Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bad taste v. hypocrisy

In the eternal struggle between bad taste and hypocrisy, usually bad taste is less offensive. In case you haven't seen the new Associated Press article, British readers have been blocked from accessing an article because it contains an image of a nude child. The article itself is about a 1976 album released by the German band The Scorpions. In a cheap tasteless gimmick the band and its record label called the album Virgin Killer. In case for whatever reason the image isn't available to you, here's a direct link. You can also view the image at on a couple of pages, or at The Scorpions official website, or any number of other places.

Yet rather than target any of the other sites that host this 32-year-old commercial image, the Internet Watch Foundation has decided to focus on Wikipedia. The lady depicted has reached middle age. The image would remain in well-deserved derision and obscurity if it weren't for this attention. And the consenus of Wikipedia volunteers aren't happy about the hassle.

In the words of one site administrator, Jonathan Hochman:
There are two stories: a) censorship, and b) technologically hamfisted measures.

If the censors used XFF, at least there would not be so much collateral damage.

I am also very nonplussed that this censorship was approved by a private charity that answers to nobody.

XFF stands for X Forward-for. It's a protocol that proxies use to identify the source of an Internet transaction. This helps Web 2.0 sites have the ability to identify users by IP address and block those who are disruptive.

As things stand now, if any user in the UK gets blocked, the autoblock will prevent a huge swath of the UK from editing. This is an enourmous [sic], unnecessary problem.
So in response to one image readily available elsewhere, Wikipedia's ability to respond to inappropriate conduct of any sort from UK users has been severely hampered. And actual UK pedophiles (if any are active) have an easier time hiding in the crowd. In other words, the worst of all possible worlds.

Want to do something about it? Well claims are floating around that the album cover has been banned. It hasn't been; a lot of music stores carry it. And Wikimedia Foundation UK press contact David Gerard is speaking to the press tomorrow. Editors who don't mind letting their face and identity be known can help demonstrate that the image is indeed widely available, by photographing themselves with it.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

As I've wrote on my own blog entry on this matter. The claim that the image is not child porn is not so clear cut. If one had an adult human female fully clothed in that position one might consider it sexual.

Frankly, the most disturbing part to me is that so many people have received a 404 page or a blank page rather than any message saying that they have been censored. This makes it almost impossible for anyone to know if they are being censored. One must now wonder how many other websites are being censored in this way in Great Britain and no one notices because they are such small fry. It isn't an acceptable situation.