December 10, 2008

Wikipedia Censorship Cancelled by British ("Oops!")

Greetings. A few days ago I expressed disdain regarding the censorship, by six British ISPs, of a Wikipedia page showing a three-decades-old image that a British "watchdog" group -- IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) -- had declared to be unacceptable.

The blocking of the Wikipedia page, about the 70s-era heavy metal album Virgin Killer reportedly had the side-effect of blocking anonymous Wikipedia editing by users of those ISPs, and had the perverse result of drawing global attention to the image of a young girl -- an image which is very widely available on servers throughout the world.

Today comes word that the IWF has backed down, admitting, in effect, that trying to block the Wikipedia page was an inappropriately dumb move that resulted in more people seeing the image in question than ever before!

I'm glad to hear that IWF has seen the error of their ways in this particular case. But this whole sorry saga demonstrates the continuing insanity of trying to censor the Internet, and especially of putting the power to declare materials as supposedly "verboten" in the hands of groups that ISPs then mindlessly obey. Not that the material really becomes unavailable to people who want to find it, but the hassle and collateral damage can be very real.

And seriously gang, essentially just saying "Oops -- never mind!" afterward isn't an acceptable procedure for Internet management -- and I use the term "management" very loosely indeed.

Just don't hold your breath hoping that the proponents of ISP-based and government-mandated Internet censorship learn the futility of their dreams from this example. It seems that there's just no successful arguing with magical thinking -- not even in the 21st century. But we gotta keep trying.


Posted by Lauren at December 10, 2008 04:09 PM | Permalink
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