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Wikipedia added to Internet filtering blacklist

09 December, 2008
By An Nguyen

In an example that highlights the problems of trying to filter the Internet, users in Britain have been blocked from contributing to Wikipedia, the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit".

On the advice of the Internet Watch Foundation, six British ISP’s began filtering access to Wikipedia because of an image of a 1976 album cover of German band the Scorpions, which depicts a naked girl.  However, the method used by the ISPs not only blocked access to the picture, it also blocked the entire article, and resulted in a blanket ban on anonymous edits from all users of those six ISPs, which account for about 95 per cent of British residential Internet users.  Such a block is of enormous significance to Wikipedia, one of the world’s most visited websites, as the 20,000 or so editors in Britain account for about one quarter of all English-language edits.

Wikipedia has refused to remove the image, which is currently still visible on Amazon and other websites where the album is sold.

What is the Internet Watch Foundation?

The Internet Watch Foundation is an independent, self-regulatory body, which is funded by the EU and the online industry.  It is the UK’s Internet hotline for the public and IT professionals to report potentially illegal online content, focused particularly on child sexual abuse images online.

Any websites deemed to be illegal are added to a list which is sent to companies that have committed themselves to removing unacceptable images from the web, however, they are not obliged to block/filter them.  This list is updated twice a day and includes about 1,000 sites.  The IWF does not notify website owners that their site is on the list, but it does operate an appeal process.

Senator Conroy has said that Australia would sign up to the IWF blacklist under his filtering plan.

For more detail and technical info on how the filtering was done, see:
The Register and Bugzilla

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