Censorship Online: ISPs Block Wikipedia Article

On: December 9, 2008
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About Hannah Biemold
Artist and blogger who wrote a novel last year in the NaNoWriMo program (National November Writing Month). The book, called 'In het hooi', has been published by Uitgeverij Vuurpapier in june 2010. Hannah finished the master New Media program in 2009 at the University of Amsterdam. She wrote a master thesis on Twitter implications (twesis). Besides this, Hannah is trying to visualize ideas about the world through conceptual art, she is looking for confrontation with these borders and wants to know of they're stretchable.


Last week a controversial article on the English Wikipedia has been censored by British ISPs. The UK-based IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) blacklisted the article Virgin Killer and the related image as potentially illegal in the United Kingdom. The article is showing an album cover by the rockband ‘the Scorpions’. Several large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that cooperate with the IWF subsequently blocked them from being viewed, affecting an estimated 95% of residential Internet users in the UK. Also the image is not just being blocked but the access to the Wikipedia article itself. The particular image is from 1976 and therefore it’s unclear why it’s been affected right now. A lot of newssites state that someone filed a complaint against this article. Due to this block a lot of users cannot use Wikipedia at all while the image is still visible on multiple other website throughout the Internet. This weekend though, it has already been deleted from amazon.com.

Apart from the debate about the picture being illagal or being child porn, what’s happening here when articles on Wikipedia are being blocked by ISPs? Do they have a moral duty to protect their users from viewing certain content online? What about freedom of art or freedom of speech? Is the UK following the example of China where multiple websites are blocked? In the past owners of Internet forums had been prosecuted for certain posts by individual users, but never for an article on Wikipedia, as far as I know. Also interesting is the debate going on many websites right now, a bit like the Streisand effect, while an attempt to censor a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized.


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