Wikipedia article blocked in UK over child photo

Raphael G. Satter,Ap
Monday 08 December 2008 09:14 GMT

British internet users have been blocked from accessing an article on popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia over child pornography concerns, the country's Internet watchdog and Wikipedia said.

Britain's Internet Watch Foundation added a Wikipedia article on a heavy metal music group to its list of banned web sites because it contained a picture of a nude girl judged to be pornographic, foundation spokeswoman Sarah Robertson said.

Because the foundation's list is widely used by British Internet service providers to filter out child pornography and other illegal content, adding the site to the list effectively made it inaccessible to the vast majority of the British public. Robertson estimated that the foundation's list affected 95 percent of British residential Internet users.

However the move appears to have blocked thousands of Wikipedia users across Britain from editing any of the site's articles, according to Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, which manages the encyclopedia.

"It appears that there's a large number of editors — I can't say all — who appear to have access issues," he said.

Robertson said she could not explain reports that other parts of the site were difficult to navigate as a result of the block.

"There shouldn't have been any collateral damage," she said.

Robertson said that image — a picture from one of the band's album covers — was first flagged by an Internet user last week. The Internet Watch Foundation consulted with British law enforcement before concluding that the picture could break the law, she said. The Watch Foundation has maintained a constantly updated blacklist of potentially illegal Web sites for years, but Wikipedia volunteer David Gerard said he and fellow users angry that an encyclopedia article — including text — had been blocked.

"Blocking text is a whole new thing — it's the first time they've done this on such a visible site," Gerard said.

Wikipedia, one of the world's most popular Web sites, is a massive, multi-lingual online database written, edited and funded largely by its users. It has 2.6 million articles in English alone.

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