Press releases/Censorship of WP in the UK Dec 2008

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Censorship in the United Kingdom disenfranchises tens of thousands of Wikipedia editors

Wikimedia Foundation opposes action by internet watchdog group to blacklist encyclopedia article

San Francisco CA, December 7, 2008: As of December 6, 2008, most Internet users in the United Kingdom no longer have full access to Wikipedia. Due to censorship by the UK self-regulatory agency the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), most UK residents can no longer edit the volunteer-written encyclopedia, nor can they access an article in it describing a 32-year-old album by German rock group the Scorpions. Wikipedia visitors in the UK have also reported performance issues accessing the site.

The IWF has confirmed to the Wikimedia Foundation that it has added Wikipedia to its blacklist, which also had the unintended consequence of rendering UK-based internet users unable to edit the encyclopedia, and possibly harming the site's performance inside the UK.

The IWF says its blacklist is used, on a voluntary basis, by 95% of UK-based residential Internet Service Providers. A statement on the IWF website says it added the Wikipedia article to the blacklist after the article was reported by a user, and an IWF assessment found it to be “potentially illegal.”

“We have no reason to believe the article, or the image contained in the article, has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world,” said the Wikimedia Foundation's General Counsel, Mike Godwin. “We believe it's worth noting that the image is currently visible on Amazon, where the album can be freely purchased by UK residents. It is available on thousands of websites that are accessible to the UK public.”

“The IWF didn't just block the image; it blocked access to the article itself, which discusses the image in a neutral, encyclopedic fashion,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “The IWF says its goal is to protect UK citizens, but I can't see how this action helps to achieve that – and meanwhile, it deprives UK internet users of the ability to access information which should be freely available to everyone. I urge the IWF to remove Wikipedia from its blacklist.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is proud of the work done by its volunteer editors, who have created an encyclopedia which external studies repeatedly validate as equal or better in quality compared with conventional encyclopedias. Wikipedia's editors take care to ensure the quality of the content of the encyclopedia, and to safeguard the core community values of freedom, independence, and neutrality.

The Wikimedia Foundation will continue its discussions with IWF to resolve this matter.


  • Questions and answers about this issue can be found here.


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