May 11, 2010

Controversy Over Sexual Wikimedia Content

A controversy is brewing over sexually explicit content available on the web encyclopedia Wikipedia and related sites.

Co-founder Jimmy Wales has given up some of his site privileges following protests by contributors upset over him deleting images without consultation.

Wales previously urged the removal of "pornographic" content from the user-generated site.

This was after a complaint was filed about "child pornography" to the FBI from another Wikipedia co-founder.

The estranged co-founder Larry Sanger reported Wikimedia Commons to the FBI, alleging that the organization was "knowingly distributing child pornography."

He then clarified that his concern was not about photographs of children, but "obscene visual representations of the abuse of children," which can include drawings and sculpture.

Administrators of Wikimedia Commons, a media file store widely used for Wikipedia articles, deleted hundreds of images last week.

Some of the images that were deemed by the Wikipedia community to have educational merit have been reinstated.

Wales had shown his support of the removal of "images that are of little or no educational value but which appeal solely to prurient interests" by deleting many pictures himself.

Pressure on the organization increased after Fox News reported the story, contacting a number of high-profile corporate donors to the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and related sites.

Fox asked whether the donors were aware of "the extent of sexually explicit content" on Wikimedia Commons.

Wales faced criticism from the band of volunteers that helped to maintain the site, some of which say the decision to delete the images was undemocratic and made too quickly.  They also expressed concerns that valid material might be deleted accidentally.

Wales voluntarily revoked many of the "permissions" given to him as Wikipedia's founder, to delete and edit "protected" content on Wikimedia Commons.

He said in a statement to the Wikimedia Foundation that this was "in the interest of encouraging this discussion to be about real philosophical/content insures, rather than be about me and how quickly I acted."


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