December 07, 2008

Brits' Failed Heavy Metal Censorship Attempt Disrupts Wikipedia Edits

Greetings. Today we're handed yet another in a veritable cornucopia of examples showing why attempts to censor the Internet may disrupt and hassle, but can't really effectively block anything, and frequently have exactly the opposite of the intended effect.

In this case, we learn how a British watchdog group flagged a Wikipedia article about a heavy metal album -- Scorpionsí "Virgin Killer" -- which features a naked prepubescent girl on the cover (partially obscured by a "broken glass" effect).

Six British ISPs, who seem to slavishly follow the edicts of the group in question, blocked all access to the associated Wikipedia page by running Wikipedia through filtering proxies, which had the side effect of breaking some forms of Wikipedia editing, apparently due to the proxies showing all users as coming from single IP addresses.

And of course, this action has now generated far more interest in that album cover than would ever have likely otherwise been the case, and naturally that image can be located trivially and virtually instantly as a multitude of copies at any number of image search sites. It took me less than 15 seconds to find it at a non-Wikipedia source just now. Anyone in Britain can easily do the same thing.

Whether or not the image in question is viewed as offensive, the utter stupidity and futility of attempting to block such materials on the Internet has been demonstrated again and again -- and the collateral damage that can be caused by such attempts is made ever more clear.

These are technological realities that cannot be effectively changed by political posturing or "magic" filters, regardless of how upsetting we may individually find any particular Internet content to be. The sooner that we accept this fact, and understand that the traditional mechanisms of top-down content control are no longer relevant in today's world of global communications, the sooner we can move on to dealing with society's real problems in manners that are truly effective, rather than just useless "feel good" flotsam and jetsam.


Blog Update (12/10/08): Wikipedia Censorship Cancelled by British ("Oops!")

Posted by Lauren at December 7, 2008 03:04 PM | Permalink
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