Wikinews has learned that at least six of the United Kingdom's main Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have implemented monitoring and filtering mechanisms that are causing major problems for UK contributors on websites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, amongst up to 1200 other websites. The filters appear to be applied because Wikimedia sites are hosting a Scorpions album cover which some call child pornography. The Scorpions are a German rock band who have used several controversial album covers and are perhaps best known for their song, "Rock You Like a Hurricane".The evil wiki witch Durova already has an entry on this topic which I recommend reading. My own analysis follows.
While there has already been a large amount of reaction against this perceived censorship accompanied by cries that of course this image is not child porn, I can see how a reasonable individual might consider the image to be over the line. The image in question consists of a nude girl of about 11 years of age with an apparent lens crack over her genitalia. Moreover, the pose the girl is in is a pose which would arguably be sexual if that pose were done by an adult even if she were fully clothed. However, it is clear that the image is legal in the United States and the State of Florida where the Wikipedia servers reside.
The censorship has been done in a very hamfisted fashion. Among other consequences it forces the majority of people accessing Wikipedia in Great Britain to do so only through a handful of IP addresses. This is making it difficult for Wikipedia admins to deal with vandalism from anywhere in Great Britain and is making it difficult for people in Britain to edit Wikipedia in general.
There are two issues which I find particularly disturbing.
First, the ISPs made the decision after the Internet Watch Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to stoping child pornography on the internet, decided that the image was close enough to child porn to be included in their list. There's thus nothing even resembling an appeal process or any form of transparency about these decisions. Indeed, even now the IWF has not clarified whether any other pages on Wikipedia are being similarly censored.
Second, many of the people in Great Britain who have attempted to access the page have received a 404 error rather than be told that the content is being censored. If this occurs in less prominent cases people might not even realize there is censorship occurring and simply assume that the server in question is down or has some other problem. This is thus a subtle form of censorship which can be hard to detect.
Update: David Gerard appeared on the Today show to talk about this. He has a transcript of that appearance as well as his thoughts on the matter.