Jimmy Wales reiterates support for Wikipedia porn filter

Over on Twitter, I’ve been having the first conversation, of sorts, I’ve had in years with Jimmy Wales. First, I wrote (pointing to my post, “What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem?“):

Jimbo replied:

Hmm, I thought:

Jimbo had a couple of replies to this, too:

I found it implausible that the God King could do nothing:

And that’s as far as it’s gone, as of this writing.

As much as I appreciate Jimmy Wales’ willingness to state his views publicly, it is hard to believe him when he says he “strongly” supports a filter. He is not only on the Wikimedia Board of Trustees, he is the only member of the board that, if I’m not mistaken, has a seat made especially for him. He surely knows the situation with the filter: he surely knows that the Wikipedia community has come out against it, and that the Board he sits on has let the matter drop. So why doesn’t he ask the Board to take it up again?

The trouble for Jimbo, Sue, the Board, and the grown-ups in the community generally, is that there are a lot of very loud filter opponents who will scream bloody murder if work on the filter continues, and even more if it is finished and installed. I’m sure they wish the whole thing would just go away. But that is the weak way out. That is why it is important that we not just let it go away. Jimmy Wales has boldly declared that he “strongly” supports the filter. I will believe him when he takes decisive action to help it come into being. Until then, I must conclude that he “weakly” supports it.

Some other Tweeps have shared “What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem?” as well, including Robert Scoble (261,146 followers) and TJ Manotoc (128,146 followers), who says “this is a bit of a shocker.” Several high-profile journalists (in order of response, Dan Murphy, Declan McCullagh, Andrew Lih, and Jason Walsh) have retweeted, expressed support, or told me they were reading the post.

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About the author

Larry Sanger had written 130 articles for Larry Sanger Blog

I call myself an "Internet Knowledge Organizer." I started Wikipedia.org, Citizendium.org, and WatchKnowLearn.org, and ReadingBear.org. I write about education and the Internet from a broadly philosophical point of view.

11 Responses to "Jimmy Wales reiterates support for Wikipedia porn filter"
  1. Reply Liberaler Humanist June 1, 2012 06:44 am

    There have been votes about this image filter in the german and other Wikipedias, this is the german Wikipedias vote: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meinungsbilder/Einf%C3%BChrung_pers%C3%B6nlicher_Bildfilter .

    There is no support for image filters, we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do.

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 1, 2012 09:22 am

      Oh! The Germans have spoken! The voice of enlightment has overruled the poor, benighted Americans!

      “We don’t need anyone to tell us what to do.” You sound like a teenager. It’s not a matter of people telling you what to do. It’s merely a matter of being responsive to the needs, yes the needs, of your readership. If you don’t care about that, then you are declaring that you are writing for yourselves and you want to impose your values on the rest of the world. I thought Wikipedia was supposed to be neutral and public-minded. Since most parents with children, yes even in Germany, would prefer to have the option of turning on a filter which blocks images and articles for which they are unready, your insistence that they take what they are given whether they like it or not really means that you’re imposing your values on them.

      Attitudes like yours explain why I do not show Wikipedia to my six-year-old son and why we subscribe to Britannica instead of using the project I started.

  2. Reply Andreas K. June 1, 2012 19:01 pm

    The joke, Larry, is that the German Wikimedia community is showing the German population its porn by riding on the shirt tails of American free speech.

    According to German youth protection laws, Wikimedia content would be illegal on a German server: “A pornographic content on the internet is legal only if technical measures prohibit minors from getting access to the object (AVS = Age Verification System or Adult-Check-System).”

    http://www.bundespruefstelle.de/bpjm/information-in-english,did=33902.html

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 1, 2012 19:13 pm

      That’s news to me–pretty incisive reply, really.

  3. Reply Zacqary Adam Green June 1, 2012 23:01 pm

    Why hasn’t a third party created a Wikipedia filter? We already have things like NetNanny that empower parents to block whatever they want from their kids. If Wikipedia’s not going to build a filter, then why doesn’t someone like NetNanny go ahead and add a robust Wikipedia filter to its software? Block the bad stuff, keep the good stuff. (Or maybe it does already, I don’t know)

    It doesn’t matter whether or not this is Wikipedia’s responsibility. What matters is that they aren’t doing it. So, if you want it, you build it. If you can’t build it, find someone who can. Run a Kickstarter project or something to fund its development. Or lobby NetNanny.

    Fight inaction with action. Complaining about inaction — however justified — rarely solves anything.

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 1, 2012 23:16 pm

      Why hasn’t a third party created a Wikipedia filter? That’s a good question, but I think there’s a pretty easy answer: it’s cost-prohibitive for anyone but the Wikipedia community to do it. The Wikipedia community can easily add the software on to their existing software, and ask users to add the metadata; moreover, when the filter’s in place, more people will arrive on the scene to help go through Wikipedia’s vast content holdings. NetNanny would have to do a heck of a lot more work for much less payoff.

      Another reason no one else has created a filter is that the problem is relatively unknown to parents and teachers and others who might call for a filter. (But I suspect it’s not unknown to kids who evidently are searching for porn on Wikipedia, considering the popularity of sex-related searches on the site.) But once this becomes public knowledge, the game might change. It is possible that there will be heavy public pressure on Wikipedia to install a filter, and if they don’t they’ll lose both donors and readers in droves.

      I never said Wikipedia’s not going to build a filter. I said that they won’t if we don’t organize and hold them responsible for the content they’re promoting as educational for children.

      • Reply Sarah Minchom June 12, 2012 04:18 am

        I by no means intend to hyjack this thread for a marketing pitch, but I think this is a great question, Zacqary Adam Green, since there is in fact there is a solution on the market capable of successfully filtering or moderating the image content on Wikipedia (as well as search queries).

        The problem is, as Larry points out, delivery – if Wikipedia were to commit to implement either filtering of the image uploads (which is unlikely) or moderation that would enable users to surf Wikipedia with a safe version that defaults inappropriate images to a hidden state, NetSpark has the technology to enable Wikipedia to accomplish this, using our highly accurate graphics inspection technology and filtering algorithms.

        In the meantime, the technology is limited to those networks that have deployed our Web filtering solutions.

        I just tweeted to Jimmy Wales myself, challenging him to respond to the fact that solutions are indeed available to address the issue relatively quickly, so am curious to see if he will reply.

        • Reply Larry Sanger June 12, 2012 09:13 am

          Do you care to do a screenshare with me, Sarah, to demonstrate the capabilities of your system? Private, I mean, not for screencast. But I do think that, if you can successfully get past the Sanger wringer, you should make a marketing video showing “Wikipedia without filter” and “Wikipedia with filter” options.

          If your service is really effective, with few or no uncaught porn and few false positives as well, and if Wikipedia were simply to buy your service and install it on a kid-friendly website, that would take care of my objection.

          • Sarah Minchom June 14, 2012 01:04 am

            Hi Larry – it would be my pleasure to demonstrate NetSpark’s filtering technologies for you.

            Perhaps you can send me an email so we can coordinate a convenient time next week (I assume you have my address from my posting details)?

            Look forward to speaking!

  4. Reply What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem? | Wikipediocracy June 12, 2012 23:26 pm

    [...] feel free to repost this online. UPDATE: in a response to me, Jimmy Wales has reiterated his support for a Wikipedia porn filter. But this wouldn’t be the [...]

  5. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » Wikimedia Foundation Board Officially Rejects Porn Filter July 15, 2012 13:03 pm

    [...] two: (1) call yourself kid-friendly; (2) host lots of porn; (3) be filter-free.” Jimmy Wales responded via Twitter, stating clearly and unequivocally that he supported the filter. My impression is that members of [...]

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