Wikimedia Scrambles to Fight Child Pornography Claims


In response to claims from cofounder Larry Sanger that Wikimedia is harboring images of child pornography, founder Jimmy Wales has gone on a search-and-destroy mission against pornographic images in the company's family of websites, causing an outcry about his heavy handedness and resulting in his giving up some privileges to delete further content.

The images in question were not in Wikipedia per se, but in the Wikimedia Commons, an online repository of free-use images, sound and other media files.

Sanger sent a letter to the FBI earlier this month outlining his concerns and identifying two specific Wikimedia Commons categories he believed violate federal obscenity law, according to an article on Fox News. "When Sanger’s research led him to graphic images of children, he looked up the law and realized that under the obscenity statute he’d homed in on, a person who sees obscene renderings of child abuse and does not report them to authorities is as culpable as the person who actually distributes the obscene content," the Fox story said.

Fox News went on to contact some of the high profile donors to the Wikimedia Foundation, the encyclopedia’s parent company, asking if they had any knowledge about Sanger’s claims, according to an article in the Telegraph. That action has brought criticism onto Fox News, claiming that the network has crossed the line from news to advocacy.

The Wikimedia Foundation was quick to defend itself against the charges. "In the weeks since Sanger’s published allegations, the Wikimedia Foundation has not been contacted by the FBI or any other law-enforcement agency with regard to allegedly illegal content on any Wikimedia projects," the company said.

However, after that, Wales went onto the Commons and started deleting images, which created its own controversy among Wikimedia users.

"We cannot be a free encyclopedia if we delete files to make Fox happy," commented one user. "It's intellectual corruption."

Wales defended his action on his Wikimedia talk page. "We were about to be smeared in all media as hosting hardcore pornography with zero educational value and doing nothing about it," he said. "Now, the correct storyline is that we are cleaning up. I'm proud to have made sure that storyline broke the way it did, and I'm sorry I had to step on some toes to make it happen."

About the Author

People thought it was weird enough that I was both a writer and a computer geek. So then I went and started getting involved in government to pull that in, too. And, y'know, there's a heck of a lot more connections than one might think!

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