What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem?

I want to start a conversation.

I. Problem? What problem?

So, you didn’t know that Wikipedia has a porn problem?

Let me say what I do not mean by “Wikipedia’s porn problem.” I do not mean simply that Wikipedia has a lot of porn. That’s part of the problem, but it’s not even the main problem. I’m 100% OK with porn sites. I defend the right of people to host and view porn online. I don’t even especially mind that Wikipedia has porn. There could be legitimate reasons why an encyclopedia might want to have some “adult content.”

No, the real problem begins when Wikipedia features some of the most disgusting sorts of porn you can imagine, while being heavily used by children. But it’s even more complicated than that, as I’ll explain.

(Note, the following was co-written by me and several other people. I particularly needed their help finding the links.)

Here is the short version:

Wikipedia and other websites of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) host a great deal of pornographic content, as well as other content not appropriate for children. Yet, the Wikimedia Foundation encourages children to use these resources. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and many other high-profile sites have installed optional filters to block adult content from view. I believe the WMF sites should at a minimum install an optional, opt-in filter, as the WMF Board agreed to do [*] in 2011. I understand that the WMF has recently stopped work on the filter and, after a period of community reaction, some Board members have made it clear that they do not expect this filter to be finished and installed. Wikipedians, both managers and rank-and-file, apparently do not have enough internal motivation to do the responsible thing for their broad readership.

But even that is too brief. If you really want to appreciate Wikipedia’s porn problem, I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the following.

Here is the longer version:

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) and its project communities have recently stopped work on an optional, opt-in filter that the Foundation’s Board approved [*] in 2011. “Opt-in” means the filter would be switched on only for users who choose to turn it on. It would hide certain content behind a warning, and even then, the content would still be accessible to all users. It is accurate to call this proposed filter “weak”.  Nevertheless, after a period of community reaction, some Board members have made it clear that they do not expect this filter to be finished and installed. WMF director Sue Gardner implicitly endorsed their description of the situation at the end of this discussion [*] (at “I wish we could’ve talked about the image filter”).

Yet, Wikipedia and its image and file archive, Wikimedia Commons, host an enormous and rapidly growing amount of pornographic content. This includes (or did include, when this petition was drafted):

WARNING, THE FOLLOWING ARE EXTREMELY EXPLICIT
• articles illustrated with pornographic videos (“convent pornography” [*], “The Good Old Naughty Days” [*], “A Free Ride” [*])
• videos of male masturbation [*] and of ejaculation in two [*] formats [*]; pictures as well: ejaculation [*]
• illustrated articles about various extreme and fetishistic topics (cock and ball torture [*]hogtie bondage [*]fisting [*]autofellatio [*]pearl necklace [*]hentai [*])
• photo categories for the “sexual penetrative use of cucumbers” [*] and other vegetables, practices like scrotum inflation[*], pictures about penis torture [*]
(Note, [*] indicate links to archived versions of pages, for reference in case these pages are edited.) Some searches produce unexpected results [*]. For example, an image search for “male human” [*] in the “Simple Wikipedia” (touted as a children’s version: “The Simple English Wikipedia is for everyone! That includes children and adults who are learning English”) shows dozens upon dozens of pornographic and exhibitionist images. Almost all the most frequently viewed media files on Wikimedia servers [*] are sexually explicit files, which puts the lie to the oft-repeated claim that pornography is rarely viewed on Wikipedia.

Many parents and teachers are neither aware of the adult content on Wikipedia sites, nor that it is accessible to school-age students, nor that this content is in fact quite popular.

With so much adult content, so often accessed, you might think that Wikipedia is adults-only, and that children don’t use it. But of course, they do. We are told that today’s children are “Generation Z” who get much of their information online. Even pre-teen children are heavy users of Wikipedia, which is often ranked in the top five of all websites in terms of traffic. In fact, 25% of the contributors to Wikipedia are under the age of 18, according to a 2010 survey, and about 12% of both readers and contributors said they had only a primary education.

Youth readership is something that the Wikimedia Foundation appears to condone, at the very least. For example, Jimmy Wales has addressed audiences of school children about Wikipedia, and one of their Wikipedian in Residence programs is at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis [*]. Wales expressed a common attitude about children’s use of Wikipedia in an interview in which he said that if “a 10-year-old is writing a little short paper for class, and they want to say that they got some information from Wikipedia, I think we should be just glad that the kid’s writing and actually thinking about giving credit — due credit — to people who have helped. And I think that’s wonderful.” (Libertyfund.org, at the 20:19 mark; cf. this BBC story)

If it is meant to be used with children, you might wonder whether Wikipedia and its sister projects really intend for their service to include pornography. Of that, there is no doubt. Wikipedia declares officially that it is “not censored” [*] (originally, this was labeled [*] “Wikipedia is not censored for children”) and its official policy page [*] on “offensive material” also makes it clear that pornography is permitted. To learn about the attitudes of many Wikipedians in the trenches, see the “Wikipedia:Pornography” [*] page and follow the links, or just try this search.

Moreover, in case there were any doubt, the Wikipedia community actively permits children to edit such content. The issue came up last year when a user who said he was 13 years old joined a Wikipedia volunteer group, WikiProject Pornography [*]. This raised eyebrows; someone proposed to restrict editing of articles about pornography to adults. Wikipedians discussed the matter at great length, took a vote, and a solid majority rejected the proposal [*].

This might look like a liberals vs. conservatives issue, at first glance; but I believe it is nonpartisan, more of an adolescent-minded-young-men vs. grownups-with-children issue. Nobody thinks of Google as being conservative just because they have SafeSearch (which is opt-out, i.e., turned on by default).

The WMF is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization with an educational mission. The presence of enormous amounts of unfiltered adult content, the “educational” purpose of which is questionable for anyone, directly conflicts with the goal of supporting the education of children.

That is Wikipedia’s porn problem.

II. Is inaction acceptable?

The official Wikipedia position on this problem appears to be: do nothing, and heap scorn upon anyone who suggests that something needs to be done. That also seems to suit many techno-libertarians, especially young males without children, who are the most enthusiastic consumers of porn, and who often dominate conversations about Internet policy.

I think inaction will prove unacceptable to most parents. At the very least there should be a reliable filter available, which parents might turn on if their younger children are using Wikipedia. I know that I would use it with my 6-year-old; then I might let him look at Wikipedia, if it were reliable. It’s hard to look over your children’s shoulder every moment they’re online. Wikipedians often glibly advise parents to do just this: if Junior is using Wikipedia to view porn and learn all about creative sexual fetishes, it’s your fault. You should be monitoring more closely. This obviously doesn’t wash, when it is well within Wikipedia’s power simply to add a filter that parents could turn on.

It is also unacceptable for most teachers and school district technology directors. How, really, can you defend giving kids access to a website with so much porn, when it is so obviously counter to CIPA rules, and when their parents would in many cases object (if they knew of the problem)?

What about you? If you agree, I’m going to make it easy for you to comment. I know that some Wikipedians might want to respond in a very hostile fashion–I’m no stranger to such disputes, myself–and this would put off a lot of people from commenting. But since this is my blog, happily, I can make up the rules, and so I will. I particularly encourage participation by parents, teachers, and women generally. I would especially like to hear from people who support the idea that Wikipedia tackle this problem. If you are opposed, that’s fine, but I will post your contribution only if you are polite and well-reasoned. I will not post anything that is personally insulting, and I also reserve the right not to post “flame bait” and merely silly or stupid remarks (and on such matters, my judgment is final). I will also pull the plug on any opponents who attempt to dominate the conversation. We already know there will be significant opposition, namely, from some Wikipedians and some of Wikipedia’s supporters. The purpose of this post is to get people talking about whether Wikipedia should be doing something about this problem.

III. What should be done?

There are a few things we might do.

First, we might blog, tweet, and post on Facebook about the problem. For better or worse, we’re all connected now, and getting the word out there is simply a matter of using social media. One person’s comment won’t amount to much–even this one won’t, probably. But a lot of people together can create a groundswell of support. So add your voice.

Second, we might contact leading Wikipedians, including Sue Gardner and other members of the WMF Board of Trustees. And don’t forget the many leading members of the Wikipedia project itself, such as the “checkusers” and the active administrators. If these people hear from readers not in the community, it can really make a difference. If enough of us write, Wikipedians might finally get the idea that there are a lot of readers out there who want a voice in determining what options are available to users.

A few months ago, I repeatedly (just to be sure) mailed Wikimedia chief Sue Gardner about Wikipedia’s porn problem. In 2010, she and I had a very productive and polite exchange, by both email and phone, about these issues. But recently, she has not responded. That was disappointing, but I believe I understand. My guess–it is only a guess, and I will correct this if I learn differently–is that Sue has been beaten down by her dysfunctional community. She has given up. I think she wants a filter installed, but it is politically impossible, and she fears for her job if she takes a hard-line stand. That’s my guess. If I am right, then external pressure will wake up the Wikipedia community and make it easier for her to insist that the community do the right thing.

Third, talk to the press. If you know reporters, or people who have lots of followers online, ask them to report about this story. It’s a big story. Why isn’t it big news that Wikipedia has given up its 2011 commitment to install a porn filter? Surely it is. It’s time to ask the Wikimedia Foundation, as well as the leading Wikipedians, some hard questions. (And reporters, do be sure to ask questions of leading Wikipedians; I say that because the WMF does not control Wikipedia or Commons. If they did, they would be legally liable for a lot more than they are now. The people really making the decision, arguably, are the adolescent-minded Wikipedia admins who see nothing wrong with the current situation–not necessarily WMF employees.)

The fourth option is the “nuclear” option: we might boycott Wikipedia. Now, I’m not calling for a boycott–yet. If anything, I’d like to kick off a public discussion about whether we should boycott Wikipedia. I have been talking about this with some online acquaintances, and I am honestly torn. I don’t want this to be a mere publicity stunt: I want to call for a boycott only if it could possibly have a positive effect. I also don’t want to call for a boycott if I don’t know that there will be a significant groundswell of popular support. And I don’t want this to be about me. I want it to be all about making Wikipedia more responsibly managed and more useful for children–kids are some of its most important users, even if Wikipedians loudly insist that it is not “censored for children.”

But if Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation do not take decisive action between now and end-of-year fundraising time, I might very well call for a boycott. For now, let’s get the word out, start a conversation, and see if we can make a difference without taking such drastic action.

Please 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 first time Jimbo has supported a Wikipedia proposal that never saw the light of day. Let’s make him put his money where his mouth is.

UPDATE 2: I made a video vignette, “Does Wikipedia have a porn problem? Dad investigates.

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About the author

Larry Sanger had written 131 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.

124 Responses to "What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem?"
  1. Reply H S Boynton May 29, 2012 20:43 pm

    There has to be a filter and these problems have to be publicized. Children can be harmed by exposure to pornographic images. Children have a right to come to terms with their own sexuality as they age and it becomes a natural part of their identity. Exposing young children and young adolescents to porn and even bestiality is harmful. I have supervised young teens on the internet and there is no way to watch every keystroke while maintaining a healthy parental relationship. No young teen should be administering or editing pornographic content as a volunteer for Wikipedia. It is outrageous. I have worked as a victim advocate at a sexual assault center including for victims who were children. Exposing children to pornographic images has been used by many child sex abusers as a form of grooming their victims. Putting the Wikipedia stamp of approval on facilitating children’s exposure to porn is the wrong direction for combating child sexual abuse. The problems listed require broad publicity to force Wikipedia to do what’s right and protect children.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 29, 2012 22:11 pm

      I agree entirely, of course. The question, however, is how to publicize these problems. Back in 2006 or so, when I first started learning about the growing porn on Wikipedia, I thought it was only a matter of time before the problem was common knowledge and subject of a scandal. There have been a few related scandals and incidents–e.g., the “Virgin Killer” album cover and the many drawings of child porn, to take two examples–but, for some reason, it never really becomes big news, news outside the tech/Internet sphere. I suspect that the producers of the major networks simply aren’t aware of the problem as I’ve stated it.

      • Reply Binet March 10, 2014 15:58 pm

        When I discovered the controvery about Martin Van Maele plates posted on Wikimedia commons, I was first amazed. I just could not believe what I had read as these plates are available on the web for years and you can find them on dozens of sites, most of them not focused on pedophilia but from prestigious auction houses. Of course, everybody will agree that these images are not for children and I will not enter in a debate with you in a debate about the dark sides of Wikipedia. I am more concerned about some pages written clearly by the pharmaceutical industry promoting junk drugs. Wikipedia is simply a convenient entry point to knowledge, not knowledge itself, like any other encyclopedia. If you look at the French page on Martin Van Maele, you will see that the information is grossly accurate but the English counterpart is simply garbage.
        The real problem with these plates is not that they do not represent real people (actually one does) but that they do heavily criticize real situations around 1900 in the French society. The worst one showing a murderer leaving a rape scene alludes to the most famous criminal affair of the time and obviously, the artist did not want to celebrate the perpetrator. So yes, Wikimedia may have a problem with a filter but the main issue is that if you want to post a work of art, just give a minimum of comments about it.

  2. Reply L. deNasostorto May 29, 2012 21:18 pm

    I was initially baffled concerning Wikipedia’s resistance to installing content filters – of course, I’m a person who prizes reason, so I expect that others do too.

    I suppose the situation is not unlike that of the extreme gun-lobbyists who resist any safeguards (even those that are perfectly sane and logical) as bullying interference.

    I am generally against censorship, but again, I am reasonable about it. When there is an obvious danger to children, I think a line has been crossed. It would seem that Wikipedia has failed to police itself and so some outside influence must be applied.

  3. Reply Gregory Kohs May 29, 2012 21:21 pm

    For starters, I will be covering this discussion in a news article on Examiner.com. My work has been viewed over 60,000 times, so the very least I can do is help increase awareness of the problem.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 29, 2012 22:00 pm

      Greg, that sounds great. I look forward to it!

  4. Reply Larry Sanger May 29, 2012 22:22 pm

    Please tweet about this problem. Here are some tweets I just posted:

    Wikimedia Commons has whole categories devoted to “penetrative use” of vegetables; but it doesn’t have a filter: http://larrysanger.org/2012/05/what-should-we-do-about-wikipedias-porn-problem/

    Wikipedia has articles devoted to old pornographic films–with extensive clips–but it has no filter: http://larrysanger.org/2012/05/what-should-we-do-about-wikipedias-porn-problem/

    Wikimedia Commons STILL proudly hosts drawings of child rape–but unlike Google & Flickr, it does not have a filter: http://larrysanger.org/2012/05/what-should-we-do-about-wikipedias-porn-problem/

    Teachers, who are reading these tweets: is this getting through? When are you going to help get the word out?

  5. Reply carl gombrich May 30, 2012 03:46 am

    I support your raising awareness of this. I am, however, cautious about getting directly involved in the Wiki filter issue as it may be fraught with legal matters about which I know too little.

    We do not talk enough about the more general problem of the prevalence and high-visibility of pornography which has arrived with the internet. I entirely agree with you about allowing pornography for consenting adults. And I agree with you that those who do not see the problem of the wider dissemination of pornography as something that might badly affect children are mostly those who do not have children or are disconnected from them.

  6. Reply Andreas Kolbe May 30, 2012 05:43 am

    Well said. Another aspect of this situation is that Wikimedia contributors may habitually be violating 18 USC 2257 record-keeping requirements for images of sexually explicit conduct, and be doing so with the Wikimedia Foundation’s tacit approval.

    US law requires all secondary producers of such images to keep written records of the age, identity and consent of all models shown performing sexually explicit acts. (A “secondary producer” is defined by law as including anyone who adds such an image to a website, or manages the sexually explicit content of a website – in other words, Wikimedia contributors.)

    At Wikimedia though, anyone is able to upload sexual images anonymously, and can then immediately add them as illustrations to Wikipedia articles on sexual practices. No one is asked whether they have the necessary documentation, whether performers are overage, have consented to the upload, etc.

    For an ongoing discussion of the legal implications, including quotes from relevant legal texts, see

    http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Philippe_(WMF)&oldid=3789595#Implications_of_2257_record_keeping_requirements_for_editors.3F

    Wikimedia Commons has had its share of “revenge porn” uploads – people, often teenagers, uploading sexually explicit images of their former partners. Any time you see a sexually explicit image in Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons, there is a real chance that the person shown is a minor and/or has never consented to the use of their image. Is this how a reputable educational work should be illustrated?

    Should we donate money to a charitable foundation that tolerates such conduct among its volunteer base?

    Wikimedia should get its house in order before asking the public for the next round of donations.

  7. Reply bob May 30, 2012 10:58 am

    when i was a kid, all we has was looking up swear words in the dictionary.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 30, 2012 22:34 pm

      And wasn’t that a thrill. I remember!

    • Reply Mmx May 31, 2012 01:06 am

      I remember going straight to a given page of the anatomy book as soon as I received it. Hint: it was not the pancreas.

      But, intentional seeking of pornography cannot be prevented – if an adolescent wants internet porn, he will find it. But so was I when I was 13.

      What must be done is prevent accidental exposition.

      Also I think this must be done for wikipedia’s own sake – there is enough material to be censored by many western countries and practically all eastern ones (with some definition of western and eastern which is not probably politically correct but I can’t find better terms now).

  8. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » Jimmy Wales reiterates support for Wikipedia porn filter May 30, 2012 10:59 am

    [...] Jimmy Wales reiterates support for Wikipedia porn filter Print PDF 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?“): [...]

  9. Reply The Leftist Elite » So, you didn’t know that Wikipedia has a porn problem? May 30, 2012 11:19 am

    [...] Ich crossposte hier einen Input in eine Debatte, in die ich mich einmal kurz selbst eingeschaltet hatte (und schnell wieder raus geschaltet) und die ich für hoffnungslos hielt. Aber vielleicht gibt es ja doch eine Möglichkeit, einzuwirken und an vermeintlich nichtdiskutierbaren Punkten zu diskutieren… From Larry Sanger’s blog: [...]

  10. Reply Lisa May 30, 2012 11:40 am

    I am extremely morally opposed to all forms of pornography. I believe that its effects on men, women, and children are very harmful in multiple ways, especially with regard to interpersonal relationships. Allowing pornographic content to remain so easily accessible to anyone with access to the internet is wrong. I’m aware that there are individuals who seek out such content, but I feel they should respect the desire of those who wish to avoid it. From this article it sounds as if it’s easy to stumble upon porn while looking for something else on Wikipedia. As a mother it makes me feel very anxious for my children and other children who frequently use the internet. I am very strongly in support of actions taken to help Wikipedia’s porn problem and to provide necessary protection for our children as well as all Wikipedia users who wish to avoid such explicit content. I think installing some sort of filter is very important. I would go so far as to say I wouldn’t allow internet use in my home knowing that such content was so easily accessible and available without any sort of option for restraint.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 30, 2012 22:08 pm

      Lisa, thanks for the reply. I might not agree with everything you say, but I think Wikipedia should support how you want to use it, too.

    • Reply MS July 28, 2013 07:23 am

      I agree, Lisa. Fresh Air had an interesting interview with the creator of “Girls,” a television series, in which the creator explained that young men nowadays frequently have distorted ideas about sexual conduct because of exposure to modern pornography.

      To protect your children, I recommend putting the family computer in a high traffic part of the house and installing the free software Windows Live Family Safety (or something similar).

      Larry, thank you for bringing this problem to my attention.

      I looked you up on wikipedia! And found the page you wrote about yourself. Very helpful. I didn’t know about citizendium! I think you should add that site to the “What should be done?” section.

      I will now be replacing wikipedia with citizendium on my ten-year-old’s whitelist (list of sites he is allowed to visit).

  11. Reply Andreas Kolbe May 30, 2012 17:13 pm

    I absolutely believe that Jimmy Wales has always been in favor of the image filter, just as he was in favor of flagged revisions (a system whereby anonymous edits to Wikipedia biographies and other articles would only have become visible to the general public after they had been vetted by a contributor with a known track record of good edits). I actually believe he would even be in favor of an opt-out filter, where explicit material is hidden by default, and the user has to switch the filter off, like in Google and Flickr, to see it.

    The problem is that Jimmy Wales is just one board member among many these days, and that the others do not necessarily share his views. Two board members up for re-election publicly withdrew their support for the image filter earlier this year, characterising the board’s decision to implement even a weak, opt-in image filter as a mistake.

    Implementation of the image filter was supposed to begin in January 2012. Instead, it has been indefinitely postponed, and no plan or new schedule to implement one has been announced to date. Even that information only became public knowledge because people asked questions about it on the Wikimedia mailing list.

    As it stands, the image filter is, to all intents and purposes, dead.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 30, 2012 22:05 pm

      We might see whether it is really and truly dead when they make a public statement, which one journalist tells me they have promised him.

  12. Reply Taymon May 30, 2012 20:48 pm

    I favor the image filter as it was proposed, and really don’t understand why so many people don’t like it. I’d like to, but I’ve been unable to find any explanation from them.

    I don’t think they’ll go further than that, though, because Wikipedia’s philosophy has always been that it’s the user’s decision whether to see something—not their parents’, school district’s, or government’s. I can’t honestly say that I disagree.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 30, 2012 22:02 pm

      I’m glad you support the filter proposal. But I wanted to comment on your remark that “Wikipedia’s philosophy has always been that it’s the user’s decision whether to see something.” Most adults, and particularly most parents, understand the following and hardly need it explained, but I’ll explain it anyway. It is part of the responsibility of parents to shield their children from seeing certain things until they’re ready for it. That is why most of us don’t take four-year-olds into horror films, or eight-year-olds into porn films. For a whole variety of reasons, we expose our children to ever-expanding circles of media. (And in this regard, schools act in loco parentis.) This need not reflect a moralistic attitude (not that there is anything wrong with having a moralistic attitude; I am a moralist myself), nor need it deserve the epithet “censorship,” at least not in any condemnatory use. It is merely responsible parenting. If you’re not a parent, you might not understand.

      What portion of active Wikipedians are parents? It’s hard to say, but this 2010 survey shows that only 14.72% of Wikipedia readers and users had children.

      Explains quite a lot, I think.

  13. Reply Matthew Butler May 30, 2012 21:32 pm

    The *only* circumstance in which I’d ever support an image filter on wikipedia is if it was controlled by the community. There would need to be an agreed upon threshold for flagging images and the option to not view flagged images if you are easily offended or if you don’t want kids looking. Again, it needs to be community-driven in the spirit of wikipedia. Pictures of body parts are *not* porn in many people’s opinion and the last thing we need is a moral crusade against knowledge.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 30, 2012 21:45 pm

      I ask myself, as a father, whether I would want my son to study the pictures on Wikipedia’s “vulva” article. On balance, I think not. Now, am I terribly worried that he would somehow stumble across that page or those images? No; but on the other hand, those are just examples. There are many, many other examples of not obviously sexual, but still “adult,” topics and media. A parent who opts not to have his little boy or girl look at such things need not represent a “moral crusade against knowledge.” It would be if we were trying to stop adults from seeing such things, but that’s not the point, obviously.

      The Wikipedia community represents an extremely narrow and not at all representative cross-section of its readership. Because it is so much dominated by young men, especially young men of a libertarian-progressive bent, the choices made by that community would not necessarily reflect the needs, desires, and choices of the readers who most want and need a filter. Indeed, the Wikipedia community is so completely blinkered to the needs of children, not to mention the sensibilities of women and older readers, that if the decision is left entirely to them, without external input, there would be no filter at all. The bottom line is that Wikipedia, both the WMF and the community as a whole, needs to wake up and realize that it is part of a bigger world. If you want to serve that world, and do the maximum amount of good, then give your users some real choice!

      • Reply Keith Lawless May 31, 2012 07:57 am

        Given the demographics of the Wikipedia contributors that you mention, would we not end up with a “flagging” problem instead of a “filtering” problem? If an opt-out image filtering system were in place, someone would still have to flag an image as “adult”. The logical candidate is the image contributor – do you feel there is enough incentive for this person to voluntarily flag an image? Since this person was motivated (for whatever reason) to upload the image in the first place, I’m skeptical that they would feel the social responsibility to “self-censor”.

        • Reply ix May 31, 2012 10:27 am

          They would not be self-censoring (since the filter is optional and most adults don’t use it), and I think you are blinded by your own low opinion of people who upload pornographic content. I’m pretty sure most of these people actually feel that the picture merits addition to the article. A case can be made (and I’ll make it here) that a video showing an ejaculation on an article about ejaculation exactly does what it is supposed to: provide a clarifying illustration. This might be something a very small subset of people actively seek out, because the text description alone doesn’t quite cut it (say, a woman that has never had sex).

          In any case, if you allow that people uploading this content may often feel this way, I do not think it is incompatible with that belief system to also flag this content as something that is “generally experienced as pornographic”. Not only that, any parent coming across the file in question can add that tag, and it would only affect people using the image filter, meaning their addition to a file should be uncontroversial (by WP standards, i.e. often still hotly debated) in most cases.

          Adding that tag makes sense in any case. If somebody is going out of their way to upload a picture to wikipedia, surely checking the box that says “possibly pornographic” will not be beyond them. And for those cases they miss, someone will see and tag it.

  14. Reply Gabe Kneisley May 31, 2012 00:11 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with filtering the content, and I feel that it should be opt-out. Beyond kids, wikipedia is often used for work purposes. Who the hell wants to learn more about a cucumber just to see it shoved in a vagina?

    My only caution here is calling out the pitchforks too soon. Dungeons and Dragons and the fact that it is still identified with Satanism, murder, and psychosis is a good example of the long life of falsehood.

    I don’t think any of us want Wikipedia labeled as a pornography site. I think what we need to do is just change the demographic of Wikipedia. In the end, it really is ours. Just like neutrality is a moving community standard, viewing standards and preferences need to be.

    As a society, we consider some material actively harmful to the social development of children. Among those things are pornography, racist literature, enticement torture and murder, etc. It really is irresponsible to think that parents are just going to tolerate this. Wikipedia needs parents, educators, and the goodwill of the community a hell of a lot more than they need Wikipedia. It does have to change, but there may be more constructive things to ask for, like increased participation by people who care. As an occasional editor, I will definitely be using my voice to argue against this crap, and I hope others will too.

    • Reply John Lilburne May 31, 2012 06:20 am

      Whilst I would tend to agree with not getting out the pitchforks too soon, the difference between this issue as D&D is that the porn is real, the lack of filtering is real, and the WMF’s lack a spine to do anything about it is real too. Perhaps the vision of pitchforks and flaming torches heading in their direction will induce them to evolve a spine.

    • Reply Natasha Brown May 31, 2012 07:17 am

      Funny enough I was speaking about cucumbers on London Wikimedia Meetup Number 56 :) I have managed to make a few people angry :( I am so happy that you think the same. I hope very much that Wikipedia will change for the best. Thank you for the point.

  15. Reply Daniel Lyons May 31, 2012 00:21 am

    Interesting. Years of internet use and abuse hadn’t brought this to my attention at all. I’m kind of surprised, because I’m a big fan of both.

    I think Matt is on the right track; if there were a set of clear guidelines, the community can probably police itself with image tagging. We accept the possibility of vandalism causing the spread of inaccurate information temporarily; I think this is a reasonable benchmark for the acceptable probability of people seeing porn who shouldn’t or don’t want to see it. An important technical feature will be supporting opt-in filtering for entire networks. At first blush that looks to me like the only technical problem. Coming up with the guidelines is surely the harder problem, but allowing every country in the world to dictate their own requirements with penalties for non-compliance is certain to be substantially worse.

    It’s unfortunate that Wikimedia hasn’t addressed this themselves yet, because it will be a bloodbath when the mainstream news finds out.

  16. Reply Patrick Wyatt May 31, 2012 00:42 am

    Perhaps concerned users could “tag” each page with a code word or phrase that could be recognized by net filtering (“net nanny”) software – something that wouldn’t be found on “non-objectionable pages”. That puts the burden on the people who care about the issue rather than upon the folks who edit Wikipedia content, and therefore might be acceptable to all parties.

    There might be some fighting over which pages should be tagged by different members of the community (i.e. tagging of subjects like evolution), but since it is opt-in I think that it night still be workable.

  17. Reply Edward Buckner May 31, 2012 02:14 am

    The interesting part of this discussion is the bit about what happens if you take this up on Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedians argue that they have a free site, anyone can edit, etc. The fact is, however, that there is a powerful and vocal contingent on the Commons, and on Wikipedia itself, who will oppose any attempt to impose what they call ‘censorship’ on their project.

    It poses an interesting question for libertarianism itself. If people are allowed absolute freedom, almost instantly some clique or other will take power and impose their views and ideology on others. In this case, we have a small group of libertarians taking power and imposing their extreme view on others.

  18. Reply Ambrose May 31, 2012 05:43 am

    Seems like a no-brainer to me, as a parent of five children. I wasn’t aware of this problem before, but now Wikipedia is on my kids don’t use it without parental supervision list. Thanks, Wikipedia. We parents have nothing else to do…

    • Reply Mike May 31, 2012 17:32 pm

      Whoever lets his kid surf the Internet alone has plenty of other problems than Wikipedia.

      The Internet is not child-safe and it is the central point about an encyclopedia to thoroughly describe every single lemma.

      Most of the links given above are only findable searching expressivly for them.

      If your kid are looking for terms like “hogtie” and “fisting”, well maybe you really should have a talk.

  19. Reply Edward Buckner May 31, 2012 06:03 am

    @Matthew Butler

    I’m a logician so I am suspicious of the use of ‘power words’ in any argument. ‘Power words’ are terms that are loaded with emotional signification for the user, or for other people. The word ‘community’ is such a word, at least for Wikipedians. Not for ordinary people, I think. In the sentence “it needs to be community-driven in the spirit of wikipedia” you manage to get three such words in one sentence, namely “community-driven”, “spirit”, “Wikipedia”. Similarly in “moral crusade against knowledge” we have ‘moral’, ‘crusade’, ‘knowledge’.

    Doesn’t really add up to an argument, does it? I find it rather scary. There is this ‘community’ which has certain ‘needs’, and says that things ‘need to be’ or ‘have to be’ governed by it. Why? Why can’t ordinary people have a say as well? As soon as you bring power words like ‘knowledge’ into it, you are invoking the whole community, not just the ‘Wikipedia community’.

    This ‘Wikipedia movement’ sounds like a form of emerging Fascism. Oops, power word.

  20. Reply Natasha Brown May 31, 2012 07:20 am

    Larry, thank you so much for the article. Thank you :)

  21. Reply Rush May 31, 2012 08:05 am

    Children who look at this stuff on Wikipedia are SEARCHING FOR IT. They aren’t randomly finding themselves on a page about ejaculating. If it’s not Wikipedia then it’s some other site that they will be on. If you want to filter porn on your computer then you should invest in a good web proxy that can do that.

    It’s nice to have an abundance of knowledge about anything readily at hand. Defaulting to a PG version of wikipedia will be a nuisance for the majority of users. One of your examples – hogtie bondage – I was looking at just two weeks ago when doing research on the 50 shades of grey craze. The picture on that page adds to my knowledge and understanding. If I had to go through the extra effort to view the image then Wikipedia becomes less of a resource and something I would come to avoid.

  22. Reply Jak Wo May 31, 2012 08:52 am

    Wikipedia is the educatore and teacher of the generation Z and Y and it is know that those generation are very able to find anything they want to know. It was always and will always be the job of a teacher to provide students with the rigth information at the right time. I in general think a filter is maybe the wrong approach because there is way to say things right even if those things are highly critical to be exposed for especially minors, but the problem is not that those things are around the problem is how we are talking about them. We dont need a filter we need the right language to explain things understandable with out making the relevance or the context of a subject fals. A filter will never stop a internet native from anything. Especially porn or porn like material is for a older generation something highly inapropriate but such subjects are a part of the generation if we like it or not. Those things are everywhere and we dont have to understand why but I think it will be a problem to block or filter subjects which are in the middle of the young generation.

  23. Reply Oliver Koslowski May 31, 2012 09:07 am

    Why are we rehashing a discussion that we already had after the ‘referendum’? The reason that the board members don’t feel much motivation to get engaged with filters is the huge resistance they were suddenly facing. Even people who agreed to the general idea of having filters faced the problem of getting those installed in practical manner. The approach outlined in the ‘referendum’ clearly couldn’t work. And there is no obvious way to deal with the fact that virtually everything worthwhile in Wikimedia projects is done (and has to be done) by volunteers. And it’s hard to find volunteers who would be willing to tag, annotate or do whatever else it takes to implement the input you need for a filter. There are more worthwhile things to do, and getting into edit wars over a thing that the people contributing to Wikimedia projects don’t really want all that badly.

    And going through all this hassle while sites like Porntubes or even Google’s image search yield more smut that Commons and other Wikimedia projects ever will seems utterly pointless to me.

    All this has been discussed at length and very bitterly so. Both sides made very good arguments, and not even the pro-filter side could come up with a solution that could be implemented with reasonable effort. Ignoring this discussion and the whole ‘White Paperbag’ movement that we’ve seen in various projects after the ‘referendum’ is a rather odd move.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 31, 2012 09:22 am

      Who do you mean by “we”? The people who are now expressing shock and outrage at Wikipedia’s patent irresponsibility weren’t included. I know the sort of sorry excuse for dialogue that goes on when Wikipedians take up serious issues. I’m not impressed.

      Believe me, you would not lack for porn marker-uppers if the filter existed.

    • Reply Natasha Brown May 31, 2012 09:44 am

      I want an apology from Wikipedia for the fact that I had to face the images. I didn’t want to face them but I did. Is it too much? I am waiting for a few month now.

      Thank you for telling me that you took part in the “discussion”! – Can I have my appology from you? It will be a start!

      Do you think that it is right that I have to face the images like this without any warning? Do you think it’s right? Do you call it “charity”? – It doesn’t feel like it. I am still very much hurt.

  24. Reply Richard May 31, 2012 12:22 pm

    I’m male and 24 so not really the audience you especially want to hear from. I think that a porn filter is of course a good thing. I never really had a problem myself, but explicit content doesn’t bother me, I just click the next link and hope it’s what I was looking for.
    However I don’t understand why there isn’t a user who has programmed such a filter option. There are so many users, surely there must be some with time and skill.
    Also you’re not very clear if the filtered out pages would be chosen automaticly or if every wikipedia can tag pages for their filter only. I would prefer the latter, because this should make the programming easier and it stays democratic (instead of a few who decide the filtered words), and probably is more accurate.
    So if someone could write the filter, and leading members of the foundation excuse is they haven’t get around to do it, then the problem seems solved.

    I can’t come around to add a lit but:
    But parents are actually responsible for what their children do on the internet, especially when it offers an indirect chat platform with adults through discussions. However Wikipedia shouldn’t advertise themselves as child-friendly without a filter.

  25. Reply Michael Lechowski May 31, 2012 12:23 pm

    Before reading your post, I was not actually aware of the Wikipedia Porn Problem.
    My impression is that a lot of the debate and the ill feelings that go along with it are rooted in (possibly willful) misunderstanding or misinterpreting terms. I am not saying that everything boils donw to semantics, but it certainly is a factor. It seems that the term “filter” alone generates opposition in that it is taken as synonym for “censorship”. It also seems to me that in the Wikipedia community there is a significant number of vociferous members, who mistake “freedom of information” as a “freedom of any information for anyone anytime”. But “freedom” can never be “freedom from responsibility”. Quite to the contrary, freedom is only possible if we take responsibility for our actions, particularly if these actions collide with the freedom of others. Applied to the problem that means, if I have the freedom to post a potentially offensive picture (whatever its nature) I have to take responsibility for how this posting will affect the legitimate freedom of others not to see such a picture. To post pornographic pictures in a place that is regularly frequented by children and claim it is the parents sole responsibility to care whether or not their children see these pictures has nothing to to with freedom it is simply irresponsible recklessness.
    I cannot see how implementing a filter based on content tagging could possibly contradict the spirit of Wikipedia to make information freely available. for granted, there are certainly technical issues to be solved (which I believe is possible) and detailed questions of the nature of tagging, since a picture offensive for one person might not be for another. But the Wikipedia community has found sensible solutions for similar or more complex problems in the past, so it is reasonable to believe that these minor issues can be overcome.

  26. Reply lun May 31, 2012 13:54 pm

    The biggest problem is where the line should be drawn between pornography and encyclopedic material. In fact the definition often depends on what the imagery is used for – a photograph of a vagina in an anatomy textbook is not pornography, while the very same picture in an adult magazine would be.

    Would you say that we should limit and/or ban the usage of images that, out of context, might be considered pornography? I think that’s overdoing it badly. A picture (or a video) says a thousand words, and sexuality is an important part of human life that deserves to be documented.

    Also, the “if you don’t like it, don’t look at it” rule applies here too. People, including kids, will *always* find a way to look at porn if they want to. Wikipedia is hardly the biggest “problem” when it comes to that. If you don’t want to see the world, including sex, for what it is, go browse Conservapedia or something instead. I for one wouldn’t want Wikipedia to change its stance on this. It might even help lift the shroud of shame from something that is a completely natural phenomenon.

    • Reply Eric J. Ehlers May 31, 2012 14:59 pm

      ve got a number of problems with your argument, lun.

      * – The difference between pornographic/encyclopedic contents. What about an entry about pornography? Would an image or video of explicit sex in the context of an article about pornography be pornography? (answer: yes, by definition.)
      What about “use” of the media in terms of the person who is using it. A person searching for pornographic pictures can often get search engine results for Wikipedia before any self-proclaimed pornography site. Wikipedia’s media can be found and viewed external to the context of articles as well. Are those same images pornography or not when viewed out of context? you say “out of context, might be considered pornography” as if viewing these things out of context never happens. When, in fact, it happens very frequently.

      * – “limit/ban” This is a strawman. Mr. Sanger’s article never discusses limiting or banning anything. It discusses a very weak opt-in filter. Which means unless you deliberately activate it, it will never affect you. The solution previously approved by WMF’s board is, in fact, a method of addressing the problem with zero limits. There’s no discussion of reducing or eliminating the use of any media in any context.

      * – “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.” This betrays an obvious lack of reading the actual article. I’ll quote it: “It’s hard to look over your children’s shoulder every moment they’re online. Wikipedians often glibly advise parents to do just this: if Junior is using Wikipedia to view porn and learn all about creative sexual fetishes, it’s your fault. You should be monitoring more closely. This obviously doesn’t wash, when it is well within Wikipedia’s power simply to add a filter that parents could turn on.”
      Anyone who thinks this approach is valid has clearly never attempted to supervise a child doing much of anything.

      * – “Wikipedia is hardly the biggest problem.” What, pray tell, is the biggest problem? I’m not disagreeing, I’m simply pointing out that this is a way of trivializing the issue without providing any sort of factual evidence. Mr. Sanger has provided a good deal of factual, verifiable evidence that this is a non-trivial problem. It may not be the “biggest,” but a media outlet encouraging children to come use something that has a high probability showing pornographic content is certainly not a “small” problem either.

      * – “If you don’t want to see the world, including sex, for what it is” Another strawman. This argument has not been made or implied by the article.

      * – “natural phenomenon” I knew someone would go there. My wife and I having sex is natural. That doesn’t mean I want my children to watch us doing it. It also doesn’t mean that it would be acceptable to have children watching sex acts. Again, this discussion is not about “prudes” trying to blind themselves to human sexuality. This is about keeping children from viewing non-age appropriate content.

  27. Reply Hoopz May 31, 2012 14:44 pm

    You people have no idea what kids spend their time looking at online. Yes, they look at porn. Probably sooner than you’d like, but certainly later than you fear.

    What will filtering Wikipedia accomplish, other than reinforce the North American stigma that sex is wrong? If they want to look at porn, they can find it on a million other sites. At least on Wikipedia they’ll see a neutral, factual article as opposed to ridiculously exaggerated video. Do you want to start censoring articles about violence too? Oh right, violence is okay, but a child that hears about sex is irrevocably damaged.

    Stop being such prudes. I walked in on my parents having sex when I was a kid. It didn’t leave me scarred. And the TV didn’t blur out tits in shampoo commercials either. Because big surprise: half the world population has them, and not everyone is a prude.

    • Reply Eric J. Ehlers May 31, 2012 15:05 pm

      So… it’s ok for small children to be viewing pornography? Because that’s the only thing your post implies.

      “Probably sooner than you’d like, but certainly later than you fear.” This sentence is pretty much meaningless without numbers on when children start viewing pornography. Seeing as I know of specific incidents where sex-addicts started viewing pornography as young as five or six, I’m not thinking your statement is remotely accurate.

      “At least on Wikipedia they’ll see a neutral, factual article as opposed to ridiculously exaggerated video.”
      Wikipedia media can be (and are) readily viewed outside of the articles. (and that avoids the whole argument of the “factual” nature of many articles.)

      “Do you want to start censoring articles about violence too?” A strawman. It has nothing to do with the argument Mr. Sanger puts forth. It does help your overall tone of being an ad hoc attack, though.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 31, 2012 15:25 pm

      I’ve deleted a number of comments like this. I thought I would approve this one just to illustrate the low quality of what passes for argument on the other side.

      “Later than you fear”? I don’t fear children looking at porn too late. Frankly, if my boys never see it, ever, in their entire lives, I would count that a good outcome. Very unlikely, of course.

      Perhaps sex was regarded as “wrong” by religious people–in the U.S. and in Europe–a hundred years ago. But today, in the U.S., even among most religious people, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says that sex per se is “wrong.” I certainly don’t think so. I think that as you get older–regardless of where you live–the more you understand just how significant sex can be. Sex creates children (unless successfully prevented) and forges powerful emotional bonds despite attempts to treat it casually. Simple formulas like “sex is good” or “sex is bad” shows immaturity.

      Whether Wikipedia’s articles on sexual topics are “neutral” or “factual” is neither here nor there, when it comes to deciding whether to let children view them. They might be brilliantly written, by experts, and aimed at children (as part of a school sex education curriculum). Some parents might not want their children to view them; and, while I might not agree with their position, I fully support their right to raise their children as they see fit. If you want to support freedom, that’s something you have to keep in mind.

      An opt-in filter–of course, even an opt-out filter–does not “censor” anyone. It simply makes it harder for some people to view content. For parents who want to prevent their children from seeing certain content before they’re ready for it, this is called sound parenting, not “censorship.” To call it “censorship” is, quite frankly, silly and adolescent.

      And no, of course most people don’t want their children to see excessively violent images either.

      Wanting to be able to prevent your children, especially young children, from stumbling across what most people would regard as horrific images is not prudery. Saying so, again, only evinces a silly, unserious, adolescent way of thinking about these issues.

      Really, you and people like you, “Hoopz,” need to grow up and try to understand that you are behind the curve, not ahead of it, on these issues.

      • Reply Hoopz May 31, 2012 16:05 pm

        Good job for missing my point entirely. With “later than you fear” I meant that children will seek out information about sexual content on their own time. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean everyone is looking at it. Go read descriptions from teenagers about their explorations of the internet. Go read about the girl who was pretending to be 18 when she was 12, and was able to figure out on her own terms what she thought of sex and sexuality.

        And filters, whether opt-in or opt-out, do censor. They send out a signal that certain content is different from everything else.

        As for growing up, I did, a long time ago. And the country where I did so has a much lower incidence rate of teenage pregnancy, teenage abortion, teenage STDs, etc. These statistics do not lie. Which attitudes do you think need adjusting?

        • Reply Larry Sanger May 31, 2012 20:16 pm

          Censorship in the full-blooded sense is action on the part of government to prevent people from publishing information. It does not mean “any restriction on the flow of information that I do not personally like,” which is what you apparently think it means.

          Sending a vague signal, that not everyone might receive, is obviously not the same as censorship. Censorship, in this context, would involve the prevention of certain information from being published. If a parent turns on a filter, that does not prevent it from being published. It prevents the parent’s computer from displaying the information. I would have thought the difference between this and censorship is obvious.

          As far as “later than you fear” goes: yawn. I didn’t fear that, and I still don’t.

          Finally, as far as your preening anti-Americanism goes, that really has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue at hand. What we are debating (or rather, would be debating if you did not give me such a rich opportunity to point out red herrings and other fallacies) is whether a website should have a porn filter. A “yes” answer to that question does not commit anyone to anything having to do with the United States.

      • Reply Robert August 9, 2012 13:43 pm

        You are proud to censor opposing viewpoints. Please, continue to brag about how you silence people who disagree with you. It makes you look so good, and completely reasonable. Yes, continue to make your little echo chamber where it looks like you have the majority on your side. THIS is the internet’s problem: you can silence those who disagree with you so easily that it looks like everyone is on your side.

        • Reply Larry Sanger August 9, 2012 14:14 pm

          Oh, get off your high horse, Robert. It is impossible to have a reasoned discussion among sympathetic persons if a blog is inundated by various trolls and lowlifes who couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag, or who do not care about the quality of argument. I’m sorry that censorship–the more accurate term is “moderation”–on this topic is necessary. I was happy to let through some opposing remarks that stated their point of view more carefully and reasonably. Sadly, most unmoderated discussions of this topic quickly become echo chambers for various immature and silly cyber-anarchist types. What I am indeed proud of is that I offer an opportunity to those sympathetic to my point of view to state their own points without being abused, or simply distracted by transparently stupid arguments. It is obvious that this blog does not represent a cross-section of people wishing to comment on this topic, because most of such people online are idiots. That this is not an “echo chamber,” however, should be obvious considering the amount of healthy back-and-forth debate you can witness here.

          You know what really looks corrupt and unreasonable? Demanding, petulantly and ridiculously, that someone who is attempting to have a mature, reasonable discussion of a difficult topic instead allow trolls entirely unfettered ability to abuse, sidetrack, and otherwise destroy any chance of such a discussion. Which they will, if given half a chance, on this topic, here on my blog. Indeed, Robert, if you had half a brain, you would realize this. I respect and enjoy the prospect of completely unmoderated discussion from time to time. But moderation–obviously–has a place, for various reasons.

          Anyway, that’s as much time as I’m going to spend justifying the fact that this blog is moderated according to my standards.

    • Reply Samson June 5, 2012 18:14 pm

      “At least on Wikipedia they’ll see a neutral, factual article as opposed to ridiculously exaggerated video.”

      Really? Factual and neutral? On Wikipedia? I think perhaps someone’s definition of both has been stretched well beyond the breaking point.

  28. Reply Natasha Brown May 31, 2012 16:33 pm

    Most of us are here because our parents had sex and our mother didn’t make an abortion. This is a fact.

    Were they in love? We hope so, we hope that there was a bit of love somewhere. Even test tube babies have this hope. We are all here because someone some day wanted us to be here. Someone had gave us food when we were unable to feed ourselves. This is a fact. We all had our share of love.

    I searched through “Sex” and “Pornography” articles in Wikipedia there is no word “Love” there. I searched through “Love” article in Wikipedia and found many words “Sex/ual” there.

    I feels like a luck of LOVE! Can Wikipedia we give us a bit of LOVE? Can it protect the ones who can’t yet protect themselves from the harmful images?

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 1, 2012 09:25 am

      Thanks for weighing in, Natasha! I’m afraid “wikilove” does not extend to parents who want to prevent their children from seeing certain images before they’re ready to see them.

  29. Reply Nishant May 31, 2012 23:14 pm

    Hi Larry

    I can’t empathize (no children) but I can understand where you are coming from. Even so, I think a better alternative is client side filtering. Because placing the onus on Wikipedia (today and maybe something else tomorrow) is not a sustainable solution. I think we would be better off with a standard product which provides client side filtering and can be installed, configured and turned on or off by the concerned parent on his/her own internet access device. Placing the responsibility of censorship on the hosting service is a lot like the two bills that have recently been screamed at to death.

    Just my two cents.

    • Reply Larry Sanger May 31, 2012 23:18 pm

      I can’t agree. If Flickr can do it, why can’t Wikipedia?

      Few people would install a client-side filter. But lots of people would use a version of Wikipedia filtered for children (not a different ‘pedia, but the same one filtered). If Wikipedia cared about their most important readers–children, of course–then this would be a no-brainer.

  30. Reply Robert June 1, 2012 01:52 am

    I totally agree with you, being a math and computer-teacher myself!!!

  31. Reply Alsaya June 1, 2012 04:03 am

    I see a fundamental decision here – doing censorship on behalf a good intention. What about another filter for moslems?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 1, 2012 09:15 am

      Why not, indeed? Christians and atheists might find it silly that Muslims consider images of Muhammad blasphemous, but it is part of their religion and culture. Why not give them the ability to turn such images off? Wouldn’t that help secure their readership and hence help educate them and their children?

      There might be a few legitimate reasons (ultimately unsuccessful, but not obviously wrong reasons) for opposing the installation of filters. But merely being pushy, insensitive people, who insist on imposing own libertine values on parents, certainly doesn’t justify it. I find it ridiculous how blinkered, how culturally narrow, some people are who insist that Wikipedia must have no filter because it is a “big tent” project, and “neutral,” and open to “all cultures.” If you want a big tent project, and appeal to many cultures, you do not do that by adopting the most permissive position allowed by law. That means adopting a very narrow culture indeed, that of Western libertarian anarchists. Mainstream Europeans and Americans, to say nothing of people in other parts of the world, do not feel welcome in this “tent.”

      • Reply Andy June 1, 2012 17:24 pm

        No one is preventing anyone else from producing a client-side toolbar that can be installed by concerned parents. In fact, why not raise money for that?

        I would love to know if any of these parents want to donate their money or time to Wikipedia for the filtering system and subsequent tagging. Or maybe, they want something for nothing.

    • Reply Natasha Brown June 1, 2012 10:09 am

      Alsaya, I totally agree with you. There should be no images of Muhammad on Wikipedia as well since they hurt every Muslim.

      One can’t learn a thing when he is in pain. I am for education that is given with love. People have to learn to respect each other cultures and traditions. The absence of the images on Wikipedia will teach us more more then their presence.

  32. Reply mollydot June 1, 2012 15:24 pm

    “Kids (or anyone) will find pornography if they look for it” is irrelevant. It’s reasonable to find a photo of someone hogtied in a bathtub if you search for “hogtied bondage”. It’s unexpected if you’re searching for “bathtub” though.
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=bathtub&title=Special%3ASearch

    • Reply Andy June 1, 2012 17:38 pm

      Concerned parents should put their money where their mouth is: make a client-side toolbar that does what you want. Don’t demand it free from an organization that should use its resources better than to cater to people’s vague, undefinable moral standards.

      This vagueness is the problem with most filtering. What exactly defines “bad”? We can point to the extremes and all agree, but what about the gray area? And again, who does that work of tagging, provided we figure out what constitutes “bad”? I can guarantee to you that it certainly won’t be the busy parents who demand everything for free.

  33. Reply Guest June 1, 2012 16:49 pm

    Where is the problem…. There are worse websites on the internet just one mouseclick away… I see no problem. Wikipedia is the real life. Nothing more, nothing less.

  34. Reply Someone87361 June 1, 2012 21:44 pm

    I’m glad this is finally getting some attention. I’m a 20 year old male, and I’ve been fairly surprised (and disappointed) by the reaction of most ‘Wikipedians’. I still think trying to actually block pornographic images is pointless, because, as others have pointed out, there are many other sources around for those who are actively looking for it. But I don’t understand why anyone would object to a opt-in filter which can be circumvented with a single button click. Do we actually need scientific studies to prove that it’s not a good idea to expose young children to porn?

    For those who claim that all these children are actively looking for porn: I’m sure a lot of them are, but definitely not all of them, especially the younger ones. And yes, it is perfectly possible to find pornographic images when you weren’t looking for them, because:

    – Children don’t know all possible slang words for all possible fetishes, and you can hardly expect parents to teach them those. When I read a word I haven’t heard before, I will usually do a search for it on Wikipedia. It’s simply the easiest way to figure out what it means. So far I’ve unintentionally come across porn on Wikipedia on FOUR different occasions, simply by searching for words that I read on perfectly mainstream websites that are considered child-safe. You should realize that children WILL come across these words, and the best way to explain to them what ‘hentai’ means is definitely NOT simply showing it. (In case you were wondering, that was one of the four occasions I was talking about – what, do you expect me to know Japanese?)

    – Wikipedia is used a lot by non-native English speakers (or readers, actually), like me. Yes, also children – hardly a surprise given the huge amount of English-with-subtitles TV shows aimed at children that are aired here. Sex-related words that you consider well-known are most likely NOT well-known among non-native English speakers. These words are simply not taught in English class and definitely won’t appear in TV shows aimed at children (and even shows that ARE marked 16+ are far more discrete about this than the average person on the internet, apparently). Yes, I know Wikipedia exists in many languages, but the English one is significantly larger (not just the number of articles, also the size of the articles) and of better quality than the one in my native language. I don’t know if the situation is the same for all languages, but it would hardly surprise me.

    If the magnitude of the problem can’t convince Wikipedians to do something, then I hope that bringing more media attention to the problem will open their eyes: Even if you somehow believe that it is actually in everyone’s best interest to show children pornography, you should realize that there are MANY people who will not agree with you, and if you refuse to listen to these people, they will be turned away. Google knows this – they may or may not be evil, but they’re definitely not stupid.

    I think we can all agree that parents stopping their children from using Wikipedia will harm Wikipedia’s original purpose, i.e. educating people. Whether you’re right is irrelevant, you won’t be able to convince those parents. In the end you’ll have to decide what’s more important: giving thousands of children access to a huge amount of information, or stubbornly trying to prove your point?

    • Reply Natasha Brown June 2, 2012 02:43 am

      I thank you so much for your input into the matter. I love the way you write :) Thank you!

  35. Reply Gunnar June 2, 2012 06:12 am

    I am liberal, male and I have no children.

    I did not expect this content on Wikipedia. Despite using the Internet daily since many years I was surprised reading this article.

    I do not see much purpose for this material to be on Wikipedia (or Creative Commons). And if the respect or confidence for Wikipedia, in the eyes of many people, is lost because of this content, I think it does more harm than good. I mean, the value of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia for the world is lowered by this content.

    Wikipedia can of course decide that “free speech” and “more is more” are the principles to follow. But Wikipedia is already moderated in the name of quality. Wikipedia does not have to be the source of everything. Wikipedia is not the Pirate Bay.

    Maybe I am just limited by thinking that Wikipedia should be like an old encyclopedia – just free and digital?

    However, I understand that making a list of controversial topics that Wikipedia should not cover is not a completely nice way to go. If everything that is controversial to any minority or religious group is banned, then we all lose.

    But any controversial article can be subject to debate on Wikipedia. In a similar way I think articles about adult topics can be “improved” by making them “acceptable” to most people.

    So I guess I am going one step further than a filter, and instead suggest to raise the quality of the content – which in effect can mean to remove rather than keep content. Simply form guidelines for adult topics that focus on purpose, actual educational value, good taste and mature judgement.

  36. Reply Épisode 22 – Fin du Wikiconcours « Les échos d'en bas June 2, 2012 06:31 am

    [...] Presse/Blogs : Wikipédia dépasse 20 millions de visiteurs/mois en France (Médiamétrie) ■ WIKIPÉDIA, le légendaire site encyclopédique faussement libre, effectivement noyauté, fliqué, trahi, dénaturé… ■ Monmouth, première ville Wikipédia (encore une fois) ■ Si Wikipédia était une entreprise qu’est ce que ça vaudrait ? (Audio) ■ What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem? [...]

  37. Reply Xiaolongimnida June 2, 2012 08:02 am

    Obviously Mr Sanger never realised that
    1. Google’s “filter” is optional, too
    2. There are gadgets that help parental screening of the browsed content
    3. A kid only ends up at the masturbation video if he/she searches for or clicks on the masturbation article – therefore it is up to the parent to screen what their kids look at
    4. If the illustrations are so “pornographic”, what about the content of the article, huh? Shall we not just delete the articleof masturbation because it describes the act of masturbation?

    Hypocrisy, that’s what I call your article.

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 2, 2012 10:39 am

      Another post that I would ordinarily delete due to lack of intellectual seriousness, but I’m going to approve it in order to point out how half-baked the arguments are on the other side.
      1. I said that SafeSearch (Google’s filter) is opt-out. That means it’s optional, Einstein.
      2. There are no “gadgets” that reliably filter Wikipedia, for a whole variety of reasons. Particularly due to the extreme unreliability of keyword-based filtering, most school district filters are site-based, i.e., either the whole site is permitted or it is entirely blocked.
      3. Wrong. It is increasingly easy to stumble upon porn in Wikipedia unwittingly. It is even easier for curious Junior to search for something like “sex” and after a series of mouseclicks arrive at something decidedly not for children.
      4. Yes, certain whole topics should be blocked in a filter written for children–that’s a no-brainer for most parents. The fact that you find this to be a zinger of an argument speaks volumes.
      5. I recommend you look up the word “hypocrisy,” as you don’t seem to know what it means.

      It seems likely that this writer has no children and the maturity of his/her thinking indicates he/she hasn’t gotten much past a teenage mindset. Yet this is the sort of person that determines policy for the fifth most popular website in the world.

  38. Reply gumby_trucker June 2, 2012 08:13 am

    After reading the article and some of the comments I started thinking about the technical difficulty of implementing such a filter.

    I am not a programmer, but it seems to me like there could be a simple way to effectively circumvent the problem.

    From what I understand the most troubling content is in the form of explicit imagery, and due to the complexities of language (euphemisms etc) it is possible to stumble upon such content unintentionally.

    If this is the case, then there would be several ways to reach this content:
    1)following a hyper-text link from within wikipedia or from elsewhere on the internet.
    2)reaching the page in question via an external search-engine (google, bing, etc).
    3)reaching the page via wikipedia’s internal search.

    As far as I understand #2 is a non-issue since such engines already filter content based on explicit imagery.

    #1 can be easily dealt with according to established editing protocols on wikipedia. In fact I’m fairly certain this is already done by the community anyway: If an editor sees a link to highly explicit entries on a page where it has no business being, common sense would dictate he’d think twice about leaving the link in place. If that’s not happening right now, it may be simply due to lack of awareness among wikipedia editors of the size of this issue.

    As far as linking to explicit content on wikipedia from elsewhere on the internet, each site should be held responsible for the links it chooses to display. If a child reaches inappropriate content on wikipedia via another site, then either that site mistakenly displayed the link, or it is a site that should be blocked from further access by you your child.

    This leaves #3 (and also part of #1 which I’ll address later). In the case of searching for an article via wikipedia’s own search, how feasible would it be to have an external search engine like google be responsible for handling queries on the site? That way you would once again be getting filtered results based on explicit imagery.

    Is it prohibitively expensive to license google’s search-engine for searching within a website? Many smaller websites seem to have this as an option.

    Perhaps there is a concern by wikipedians over loss of control or objectivity of the content if the user has to go through a third party in order to access it?
    In such a case, simply having the option to use google-search by default instead of wikipedia’s search would accomplish many of the goals of having an internal filter, and wouldn’t require a lot of coding either.
    Parents would just have to enable this option once.

    The most complicated issue, as far as I understand, seems to be hidden in point #1. By the very nature of hypertext linking it is possible to start out on one topic and end up, several links later, on a completely unrelated one. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where a child is reading about something purely educational and ends up viewing a page about anatomy, which leads to links about reproductive organs which eventually lead to unsuitable content, without ever crossing a clear “line” between a proper and improper page linking to this content.

    While this is something an editor of articles on the site would have no control over, I’m not convinced it’s the main offender as far as means of accessing pornographic material go.
    Some level of curiosity is healthy, and I believe even young children still have a rudimentary awareness of when they are some place they shouldn’t be. Further more this issue can be alleviated to an extent through forward thinking editing of articles that circle the “unsuitable zone” (such as eliminating euphemisms when they’re unnecessary).

    It might be worth it to implement a suggestion similar to the one above, which seemingly would require minimal effort, and then re-evaluate the situation several months later. That way we could see if this kind of approach is “good enough” or if there is a need for a more explicit method of filtering content.

    Like I said before, I’m no programmer. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything obvious or if any of my assumptions are incorrect.

    Hopefully we can find a simple solution to this issue before it becomes a concern of mainstream media. If not, there’s always the option to withhold support until it is addressed come funding-season, though I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that.

  39. Reply Spiff June 2, 2012 08:29 am

    My early sex education was mostly due to my father’s collection of Lady Chatterley, Fanny Hill, and an (then illegally) imported copy of the Kamasutra that he brought back from a trip to India. I’m a great grandfather and I don’t think that my sexual proclivities are any threat to anyone. I’ve been married to the same woman for almost 40 years, and have kids, grandkids, and now great grandkids. They are all “normal” and have healthy and reasonably well-adjusted family lifes. FWIW, I gave my daughter a copy of Fanny Hill on her 16th b’day…

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 2, 2012 10:09 am

      Hi Grandpa Spiff, did you happen to click on many of the links, or consider that any 7-year-old surfing Wikipedia for “pearl necklace” might come across some pretty inappropriate images? Giving teenagers highbrow erotica hardly compares, it seems to me. Are you saying there’s no need for a filter on Wikipedia? Do tell.

  40. Reply CD-Host June 2, 2012 13:25 pm

    Hi Larry —

    Well I’m a parent whose child has gone through the whole cycle. I’ve been active on the internet since 1988, before there was a web and well before I met her mother. So my daughter grew up her whole life:

    a) “owning” at least one internet enabled device, i.e. a device she used and was the primary user of

    b) exposed to the internet

    And what I found, even given the far greater opportunity to get her hands of adult material, is that she’s more conservative by far than I was at those ages. My concern is her hitting adult content accidentally not intentionally. Intentionally she is either ready or close to ready, accidentally was different. Wikipedia compared to the rest of the internet is rather light. Even if you hit upon something adult, it is usually a single image not 3000 full motion video clips. Wikipedia is rather light compared to most of the sexual encylopedias available online. Objectively wikipedia is sort of light R there certainly is no porn on wikipedia. And yes I’ve seen the images you link to, they lack enough build up to make them porn in isolation.

    I object mildly to content tagging because of where it could lead. That is I support freedom for the source document. And the reason is there is simply no way to do this without taking a very strong POV on the relative merits of different types of sex and sexual depictions vs. violence and violence depictions vs. religion / blaspheme vs. criminal activities (gambling) …

    Back about 6 years, I’ve edited articles on poker. The majority of people in the United States playing poker do so in illegal games. There is no ways those articles aren’t an incitement to illegal gambling, but gambling doesn’t offend your morals so you don’t object to those articles. And that’s typical.

    The history of:
    internet white / black lists
    movie ratings / censorship
    video game ratings
    boycots of bookstores and magazine racks

    show how complex these issues are and how once you get beyond easy “wikipedia should be child safe” the actual implementation will be culturally biased. Those same male libertarians you object to will be the ones tagging articles. They will be the ones creating these detailed guidelines. They are the ones that are going to have to decide to revert the tagged for adults only “George W Bush” while keeping it on Pearl Neckless which means they are going to have to write the complex policies based on a morality they reject.

    Wikipedia allows for forking. The appropriate place for censored versions of wikipedia are forked versions. I certainly agree someone like the LDS church, that is someone with enough assets to raise the volunteers and/or pay the resources needed, could and should produce a content reduced version of wikipedia which is better suited for schools, children…. Mormon organizations like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CleanFlicks have proven they have the capability for precisely the kind of work you are asking for. I see no reason that needs to be moved to the main branch.

    Now that being said, am I liberal. Yes. Sex topics with children bother me far less than the average parent. I was far more upset by her being exposed to crust free white bread and saltines in nursery school than I would have been by an image of a penis. I’m was far more upset by her exposure in elementary school to the normalization of the idea of an all powerful punitive deity then I would have been about an image of intercourse and far more upset in middle school by her being trained to trust in arbitrary authority then anything what-so-ever she would have seen in wikipedia. And that’s precisely the problem… there is not broad agreement on what are the dangers to children.

  41. Reply milw1818 June 2, 2012 13:58 pm

    Mr. Sanger — I do not participate in the Wikipedia community and I have no stake in this debate. However, after reading several of the comments on this page I felt the need to respond.

    I am struck by the manner in which you conspicuously demonstrate your adherence to the principles of logical argument, particularly in your responses to the comments shown on this web page. This seems to be somewhat ironic because the entire basis of your argument appears to be an emotional presupposition — that pornography is harmful to children.

    Now, let me be clear, I am not commenting on the effect of pornography on children. I am far from an expert on the subject. I am merely observing an incongruity in your argumentative standard.

    You are frequently dismissive of the arguments of certain commenters on the basis that the logical construction of their argument is defective. But you have not lived up to your own standard because you have failed to establish the logical basis from which the validity of your entire argument flows.

    I challenge you to produce for review the evidence which supports your implicit assertion that pornography is harmful to children. Perhaps it will be a simple task, but until you have done so you cannot claim that you have substantiated your argument.

    • Reply Natasha Brown June 2, 2012 15:50 pm

      Have a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFw1Cnuq9jc Many people don’t want to know about it, but this woman knows what she is talking about. Dr. Sharon Cooper worked as a pediatrician for more than 3 decades she is the lead author of the most comprehensive text on child sexual exploitation & Internet crimes against children.

      “Adult pornography normalizes sexual harm & provides children visual examples of lack of emotional commitment, unprotected sexual contact, & visual examples of violent rape in many cases.”

    • Reply Carl Gombrich June 3, 2012 09:38 am

      The ‘there is no evidence that it does harm’ argument for allowing children to view pornography is among the most depressing. It shows a misunderstanding a. of what constitutes evidence, b. of what should be evidenced and what need not be.

      The points are related because the second misunderstanding often leads to saying silly things with regard to the first.

      For example, as far as I know there is nothing we could really call evidence to show that slavery is bad, either collectively or for individuals kept as slaves. Are those refusing to move on restricting the access of children to pornography therefore in favour of legalising slavery until we have ‘evidence’ (presumably a longitudinal study over many years involving several hundred people, control groups etc) to show that slavery is harmful? Specifically that it is so harmful to individuals that it should therefore be outlawed? If they do not advocate such a move, why don’t they? That is the logic of the position: no evidence, no move.

      But the important point is that slavery is bad, and the argument that it is bad was successfully made on moral grounds by previous generations in the West. That is why it is outlawed in many countries.

      Now ask: is it better or worse for children to come across hardcore pornography? We are talking children, not adolescents searching out of curiosity or for arousal, but children, for whom sexuality is a very different thing. I would like to know the libertarian answer to this question. If you think it is better that children do not see hardcore pornography, then we should something about the fact that, increasingly, many of them do.

      The other points here about libertarianism are well made: the tent in which everything goes is the tent into which, eventually, nobody goes.

      I’m not sure I’m allowed to do this, but as I have no connection with the author may I recommend Jonathan Haidt’s latest book: The Righteous Mind. A superb, highly evidenced but popular account of why it is so hard to get agreement on these sorts of moral issues.

    • Reply Natasha Brown June 3, 2012 14:40 pm

      Another video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature&v=cYPMI3k2F1Y :( The children suffer in our world now, that’s how it is.

      What kind of evidence do you want?

  42. Reply Missing June 2, 2012 21:35 pm

    I mean it’s not like wikipedia has porn in articles that you wouldn’t expect to find porn in. If a kid is looking up porn by searching ejaculation on wikipedia, blocking the article won’t stop his or her curiosity.

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 3, 2012 00:23 am

      And therefore, what…there is no point to having filters for younger children? That wouldn’t follow…

  43. Reply Leto June 4, 2012 17:02 pm

    I have read your article with interest.
    I agree with you that some filtering system (one that can be turned off by the user to avoid even the idea of censorship) should be installed.

    But the funny thing in my point of view is that you see this in a very American way: many of the images that you give as an example would not be seen as a problem in continental Europe (some would, though).

    So if such a filter system is created, which morals will be the standard to rate images and videos? What about violence? What about religious symbols?

    So don’t just talk about porn when you talk about filtering, because what is seen as porn and what is not depends a lot on your cultural background. Filtering is a very complex issue, and maybe sometimes it is better to have no filter, then a filtering system that is only appropriate in one cultural context.

    So far for my contribution to this discussion,

    Have a good night,

    Leto

  44. Reply Jason Stern Fox Legal Expert Jason Stern on Wikipedia Porn June 6, 2012 11:21 am

    [...] after a year, the filter is not in place — and in Sanger’s opinion, Wikipedia has a real porn problem with no progress being made to enact the [...]

  45. Reply Brian Longamere June 7, 2012 01:49 am

    Larry, trying to take on control of pornography will probably become a lose-lose situation. Even the Supreme Court has driven itself batty over the decades dealing with it, which they classify as a form of “obscenity.” Cases about it relating to children are endless, and as we can see from the 21st century, it’s getting worse. Generation-Zers, supersaturated with free porn, would be unable to even define “obscenity,” much less give an example. And Wikipedia is merely riding the ultra liberal wave, not even asking for a fake user name or password to let anyone, anywhere, intellectual or mindless zombie, write stuff and upload their favorite x-photos under the cover of “education.”

    In college, a good friend of mine was clerking for the nation’s leading 1st Amendment attorney, a man who had won a number of cases in the Supreme Court. He was in town defending the right of a local publisher to reprint a large government document about sexual relations in America, but decided to load it with porn photos under the pretext of “illustrating” the topics. I sat through most of the case and even got to know the attorney and the defendants. I was young, but was still amazed that such a blatant, in your face pretext for publishing porn, became such a big case. It was amusing watching that attorney have the judge and each jury member turn to each and every porn image, trying to super-analyze it for its “educational” value. The transparency of that publisher’s profit motive, which also published other sensationalistic books, was obvious, but still the judge and jury stared at those images and listened to rational arguments, kind of scratching their heads.

    My suggestion would be to simply present hard facts about Wikipedia’s porn-related material. A simple chart comparing the average number of daily viewers of both the articles and their photos with those of general non-porn, “educational” articles would speak volumes. Listing the countless porn-related articles or “notable” people, such as over 200 “Actors in gay pornographic films,” or dozens in “Transsexual female pornographic film actors.” Wikipedia’s definition of “notable” and “actors” is interesting. There are many such subjects, categories, and lists, all under the transparent facade of “education,” which Wikipedia has built.

    The numbers of visitors will say a lot, for example over the last 30 days there were over 151,000 visitors to the article on “erection,” much above the average. Even famous movie directors, like Stanley Kubrick, are less.

    In fact, if Wikipedia simply splits off the massive amount of porn-related material into a new site, such as “Wikipornia,” they could start charging memberships and probably avoid needing donors for their “educational division.” Their credibility among educators would definitely go way up.

  46. Reply Anne June 7, 2012 21:18 pm

    The Internet is, simply, not for the faint of heart. I’ve been using the Internet since 1995 when I was 10 years old. Pornographic websites were abundant, and people were having “cybersex” in otherwise friendly IRC servers. It was also easier then to be tricked into clicking a link that directed you to porn. We’re fortunate these days to be issued with 18+ warnings.

    My parents never felt the need to monitor my activities online throughout my adolescent years, despite being so glued to the computer. I wasn’t looking at porn – I was learning HTML and sharing files on Napster. Pornography was never relevant to my interests because I knew it was about sex, and my parents had already issued ‘the talk’. I knew about the consequences and dangers of engaging in sexual activity when one isn’t ready.

    I am not against censorship. I just don’t think it’s very effective. One, you can’t censor everything. If kids can’t find it on Wikipedia, they will find it elsewhere – which I think is even more dangerous. In my experience, Wikipedia infers academic tones, no matter what the content is. It is objective. It doesn’t say, “oh Sadomasochism is good/bad… you should engage in it!” If one would use another source for the keywords they type in, who knows what they might find.

    When something is restricted, t’s hard to tell how people will respond to “this page contains restricted material.” If I were a kid who knew nothing about sex and knew that the blocked page was about sex, I would be very curious as to why I am so forbidden. I’ll get my information elsewhere.

    I know this sounds dramatic, but I don’t think parents should be giving their kids full freedom to use the Internet unless they’re confident that their kid is well-adjusted enough to be let out into the world. Here and now, the Internet is inherently dangerous for kids. Much in the same way as it is dangerous to let your kid out into the streets without supervision. The whole world and its thoughts are in it. I don’t think it’s fair to condemn Wikipedia and leave all responsibility to them by protesting for content filters. Wikipedia isn’t a business with steady monetization, it’s not that easy to implement new features for a non-profit website. People could ask nicely, like what this article is doing, but we can’t expect Wikipedia to come up with filters anytime soon.

    (I’m sorry for the long comment. I’m not trying to dominate the conversation… just sharing my personal experience on why I think censorship wouldn’t really work in this case)

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 7, 2012 21:56 pm

      First of all, Anne, it’s different with boys. Unlike many girls, they are highly interested in porn, and porn can seriously damage them, especially if they consume a lot of it at a young, impressionable age.

      Second, unlike you, I am against censorship; but also unlike you, I don’t think that an opt-in filter, or any parental filter, counts as “censorship” (and indeed, that’s obvious; if you disagree, you need a good argument to make the case), and asserting that it is censorship without any argument really tips your hand. I think, moreover, that our discourse cheapens the importance of real censorship–the kind that sovereign power does, and the dangers that involves–when we call filtering for children censorship.

      Third, you’re making the argument that Wikipedia is a better place to learn about various perversions and obscene topics than actual porn sites. Perhaps, in some sense. But you should also consider the problems: an impressionable child of the wrong age who sees an “objective”-sounding article about what most people would regard with disgust or horror will come to the false, and quite possibly damaging, opinion that it is “normal.” The wiki is “flat,” meaning information about fisting is in an article that, considered just in how it is linked up with other articles, is on a par with any other topic, say, Einstein or World War II. A child, no matter whether he or she has received “the talk” or is relatively unsheltered, very probably has no context, no way of knowing, that any number of extreme “sexual practices” are indeed extreme. At least if the information is behind a filter, then when Junior figures out how to get around it, he’ll know that it’s something to be wary of. The fact that social mores are strong enough to permit filtering certain topics from children is a powerful and necessary hint to children than they are playing with fire.

      By the way, I’m all in favor of having several different sets of filters, or ways of filtering, precisely because there are different sets of social mores. Identifying the different sets requires that very different communities respect each other enough to leave them the freedom to define their boundaries for themselves. That would be true neutrality.

      Finally, Wikipedia receives $20 million a year. The software for filtering would not be that expensive, and the labor of managing it would be minimal. They can easily afford it. The reason they don’t install a filter is that they don’t want to, and they don’t want to for essentially puerile reasons.

  47. Reply Nihiltres June 8, 2012 12:51 pm

    Hi Larry. I think you’re somewhat wrong, but at least only somewhat wrong, in your characterization and judgement of the issue.

    Here are some logical points I think are worth taking into account, made in such a way that I think most people will agree that they are reasonable:

    1. It’s reasonable for Wikipedia to have articles and even media documenting sex, its practices, and its tools. Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy, one of its “Five Pillars”, concerns not expressing judgements in articles, but simply presenting information as objectively as possible and letting people make their own decisions. People objecting to this point will be those who are objecting to porn *per se*, and completely, yes, censoring those topics from the encyclopedia is unreasonable given that there’s a significant proportion of people who would like to learn about those topics.

    2. It’s unreasonable for Wikipedia itself to decide what specifically ought to be filtered. Different people have different mores. Is seeing bikinis immoral? Seeing nipples? Seeing an image purported to display Muhammed? The widely different mores mean that choosing one standard is difficult even without the mandate of a neutral point of view. I’m aware of the problems of moral relativism, but there’s essentially nothing universal about filtering any particular set of media.

    3. It’s reasonable for parents to decide what media their children consume, to some degree. We may disagree as to what degree this may be generally true, but I think in most cases we can justify saying that it’s reasonable for them to filter sexual topics, for example, from their own children given their belief that those topics are obscene to children. (I personally have somewhat less tolerance for this concept when the child has begun puberty, since at this point the child’s agency is more relevant, and the child should be learning about sex anyway, but let’s call that a grey area.)

    4. Most age-verification systems online are trivially defeated. Sites may introduce registration requirements that require users to be 13 or up, and these are trivially defeated by changing the year of birth. Sites may require a click-through to confirm that the user is 18; click “Yes, I’m 18″, and the system is defeated. The only remotely secure and universal one I’ve seen is a credit-card verification system, which is both a) not universal; many people don’t have credit cards, and b) not reasonable information for many websites to request; some users might refuse just on the basis of the privacy of that information.

    5. The primary goal of a filter is to avoid surprises. If a person searches for content about cucumbers, or toothbrushes, perhaps, there isn’t an expectation that they will find sexual content. If a person searches for masturbation, fisting, or fellatio, there is a strong expectation that they should find sexual content. If a person is searching for this content, it is reasonable to assume that they will find it, whether on Wikipedia, or elsewhere, unless there is something, like a watching parent or “net nanny” software, stopping them.

    6. An objective treatment of sex topics is relatively desirable. I see that you, Larry, have already responded to this point, and I think that your response is unsatisfactory. It can easily be argued that a fairly dry description of a topic, with occasional descriptive images, is not anything near the titillation the images or video of a porn site would attempt. On this I think we agree. However you argue that an objective treatment would (and you said “will”, not “could”) lead a child to think that the practice was normal. For a moment, give some credit to the intelligence of the child. If an article is being objective, and the child is not already aware of the societal mores saying explicitly or implicitly that the practice is unusual, the child will still have a judgement to contribute. The concept of taking sexual pleasure from humiliation (can happen in BDSM), for example, sounds odd, and a child is likely to make the same judgement unless either a) they are intrinsically interested in it anyway or b) they don’t realize that most people don’t enjoy humiliation.

    I could be wrong on this. It could be that I am attributing more rationality to a child than is reasonable in most cases, and perhaps your argument stands up well. In any case, I think it’s at very least reasonable to say that, given all non-parentally-approved informational resources on sex, Wikipedia is probably one of the least harmful.

    ~~

    Given all of the above, I do support having some opt-in filter available, given points 1, 3, and 5. However, given point 2, I think that the filter categorization should be developed externally to the community, but available on Wikipedia as an example of what some people think ought to be filtered. It breaks the neutral point of view spirit to normatively say that some image is appropriate or not appropriate for viewing. However, it is entirely acceptable to say informationally that the Net Nanny Association of Exampleland, or Wikipedia user Example, or for that matter the Church of Exampledom, believes that its eponymous filter, available at a click of a button, will keep children or adults safe from nefarious images. However, given points 4, 5, and 6, I think that the filter should be very clear about its action and soft in its implementation: a search should mention that some number of results were omitted from the results by some particular filter(s), for example. A filtered image should offer the option of revealing its contents without excessive intermediary “warning” clicks. Why? It’s better, as I argued in point 6, that a child satisfies their curiosity on Wikipedia than elsewhere—and they will, if determined enough, satisfy their curiosity elsewhere based on points 4 and 5. The key is simply point 5: people shouldn’t come across objectionable things they didn’t expect.

    I respect your opinion, more or less. (It’d help if you’d unblock me on Twitter as though you aren’t afraid of my opinion—it irks me that I cannot automatically follow your tweets on my main account.) However, I think you’re going about it the wrong way. You *will not* get anywhere with a broad campaign like this appears to be (you’ve argued this one several times). By making a broad campaign, you are sending the message to most Wikipedians that you disapprove of things that have probably been put there out of genuine interest in advancing encyclopedic coverage of sex or other topics. You are calling it “porn”, a word connoting material intended to titillate, when much of it is not “porn” but merely “sexually explicit”. Some of it *is* porn or excerpts thereof, but it’s present in the context of the history of pornography, where it’s fairly reasonable to include it.

    People hear “Larry Sanger wants the ‘porn’ cleaned up”, and they think “Forget that tripe, this is about legitimate documenting of the world”, and call it censorship and other unfair labels for what you truly intend. They see the “family-friendly” policy of Citizendium and think that you must be a puritanical conservative. They see you saying that it’s a “adolescent-minded-young-men vs. grownups-with-children issue”, and they see only that you have insulted them as “adolescent-minded”, *no matter* how sensible your argument and weak theirs. Remember: few humans are properly rational, myself included.

    To get somewhere on this, it needs to be brought back to Wikipedia, time and time again. Stress that you respect Wikipedians (even if you don’t), that you are advocating *personal choice*, not censorship, and demonstrate these things with ideas like the ability to bypass the filter. Only then will people open their ears.

    I’d like there to be a filter. I’d never use it, I wouldn’t use it on my children had I any, but I can’t conscientiously deny people the ability to self-determine if it does not disturb others.

    [TL;DR: I support a weak filter on the basis of self-determination.]

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 8, 2012 13:34 pm

      Anyone want to take a crack at this? I’ve spent too much time on this lately and responding to this would take me a long time.

      I will say one thing. I reject the notion that Wikipedia’s neutrality policy commits it to lacking a filter. The argument seems to be that any determination of what should be filtered is a position with which people will take issue, and therefore it is “neutral” not to filter anything. This is a logical howler. Indeed it is an example of puerile reasoning that is common in Wikipedia-land. Since it is patently the case that most parents would like something to be filtered, the entire lack of a filter is itself a position that others (like me) clearly take issue with.

      In fact, the lack of a filter is easily one of the most extreme positions one can take on the question “what should be filtered for young children.” Remember, we are not talking about censorship, according to which certain information would not be published, period. We are talking about a parent being able to turn on a filter so that certain information can’t be seen on that computer by his or her children. It is not correct to apply the word “censorship” to the practice of parents preventing their children from seeing certain things. Hence it is possible to be firmly in the free speech camp, like me, while also being firmly in the “let’s have some sane filters for kids” camp.

      Anyway, back to the point at issue: if Wikipedia really wanted to take a neutral position on the issue of what information should be made available to children (or, more precisely, on the issue of what information parents or teachers should be empowered to prevent their children from seeing), it would offer a variety of filters. One can imagine a set of categories that could be used to mark up media; different filters would permit or disallow the display of those media based on common preferences. For example, I can imagine a “Christian conservative” filter not showing any nudity of any sort before the age of 13, say, whereas a “progressive” filter would not block any merely nude pictures, but only if they had a sexual context. And if people disagreed about whether a certain image “had a sexual context,” then there ought to be something in the database to mark that. Why set up the system so that ideological and religious foes have to do battle? Anyone who actually understands what neutrality means knows that that really isn’t necessary.

      The fact that so many Wikipedians have used this puerile argument shows me how common the failure to understand neutrality has become–not that this surprises me, considering that I was doing battle with what were later called “POV pushers” even while I was involved. Some people just instinctively interpret their own position as the “neutral” one, and stubbornly fail to understand that neutrality involves tolerance for views that one strongly disagrees with.

      OK, one other thing. On your #6, you use the word “objective” as if its approbatory force clearly, unproblematically applied texts that lacked any moral judgment of the matter. There is a reason that I chose the word “neutral,” instead of “objective,” when devising Nupedia’s and Wikipedia’s neutrality policy; objectivity implies a single, nonjudgmental perspective that has the best claim to being the correct one. A neutral article, by contrast, is one that is open to, or tolerant of, many different points of view, some of them positive and some of them negative. It is much easier for a group of people to agree on an article that aspires to neutrality than on one billed as “objective.” Neutrality is still very difficult and it still requires that the group decide which views are to be presented in what proportion. The latter is something that most Wikipedians never have learned properly.

      Wikipedia’s articles on sexual fetishes and perversions (having seen what I’ve seen on Wikipedia and Commons lately, I’m happy to stand by this word) might be objective, in the sense that they are nonjudgmental. But they are not neutral, not in the sense that their emphases and presentation reflects attitudes toward the practices in approximate proportion to representation in the population of native English speakers. Indeed, according to that formula, if you were to write a truly neutral article on, say, fisting, one of the very first things that you’d have to say about it–indeed, given the nature of the subject matter, you’d have to say it in the first sentence–is that most people would regard it with disgust and even horror. You might hasten to say that there are some people who, of course, do not regard it that way, and are happy to practice it as often as possible; but you would be obligated, also, to say that those people make up a miniscule portion of the populace. (And let the idiots add a [citation needed] tag after that, if no studies could be found.)

      Now consider, if you dare, Wikipedia’s article on fisting (I won’t bother linking it). I read it quickly (for my sins) and did not spot the slightest hint of moral judgment of the practice. There was only a clinical-sounding “risks” section. There are also two extremely disgusting pictures, which even I can’t look at.

      This isn’t neutral. It may be “objective” in the sense that it is nonjudgmental and fact-stating, but it is very decidedly not neutral in the sense that I defined and promulgated and which held sway for some years after I left, at least. It is precisely because it is lacks any reportage of the moral or emotional reaction of most people to the practice, and because it shows those ridiculously disgusting pictures, which are hardly necessary to convey the concept–it is because of those things that the article is not neutral. You think the pictures are somehow neutral? Of course they aren’t necessary to convey the concept; it involves sticking a whole hand in either that orifice or else that one. Yeah, I got the idea. Once I got the idea, I can quickly decide that I do not want to see it illustrated. But the article’s authors express a clear lack of proper moral and indeed cultural sensitivity by simply showing the pictures without so much as inquiring whether the reader wants to see them; indeed, the callousness (I think that’s the right word) of the display is so extreme, yes of course also for adults, that for that reason it is obvious that the presence of the pictures is non-neutral.

      Now, suppose a child of just the wrong age–maybe 13, a kid who is prepared to question everything, but whose parents and teachers have failed to give him the conceptual, factual, and critical faculties for doing so properly–comes across the article. While many kids would look at it with disgust or horror, as I and most adults do, and would never return, there are others who would feel a sort of obligation to look on it nonjudgmentally. (That, in their juvenile minds, would prove their maturity.) The article’s clinical, non-judgmental tone reflects and so encourages this (on my view) mistaken attitude, so widely rejected by the vast majority of quite critical-thinking adults.

      There are some 13-year-olds who have to be told–they won’t actually understand, and will resist accepting–that certain practices are widely regarded as disgusting or horrifying. They have to be acculturated explicitly, and if they aren’t, they might well fail to be acculturated, to that extent, at all.

      By the way, Nihiltres, it is bad form to announce to the world that I have blocked you from subscribing to my Twitter feed. You’re free to shout it from the rooftops, but who I block really is my own business, isn’t it, and hence it is obviously bad form to attempt to shame me by saying so. I don’t feel the slightest bit shamed by you. I forget why I blocked you, but I assume that you deserved it.

      • Reply Nihiltres June 8, 2012 18:01 pm

        The start of your reply makes a straw man of my argument. Ironically, you criticize me for making an argument that I did not and am not making (that no filter is the only neutral filter), then suggest that the best thing is the thing I did, in fact, suggest (offering a variety of filters). My point 2 is intended to mean that any *particular* filter or filter set cannot be truly neutral. Offering a variety, and then letting people choose, is my solution to that problem.

        I’m sorry for my choice of words in point 6. You’re right in that indicating that “neutrality” would probably be a better word, and that indicating the distribution of public opinion on the topic would add to the article and help make it more neutral.

        I can’t believe, however, that the mere presence of pictures is somehow not neutral. It doesn’t follow. For example, is it non-neutral to have a picture of a clown on the “Clown” article? Most people will answer “no”. However, to someone with coulrophobia, those images would inspire fear and possibly loathing. It’s unreasonable to suppose that the non-neutrality arises with the images—it’s a property of the viewer in the example you give. On the contrary, if someone terribly enjoyed fisting, or was amused by clowns, then they might have a positive reaction to an article image.

        I do find your example of the 13-year-old interesting, but again it falls short. It doesn’t actually counter my argument, for one—you’ve mainly reiterated your original argument. My argument includes the possibility that the child might self-acculturate through reactions based on instinct and existing acculturation, but a failure of the article to acculturate the child in any particular way can’t be said to be non-neutral. On the contrary, as you yourself just put it: “a neutral article […] is one that is open to, or tolerant of, many different points of view” and by extension, different cultures. If the rest of the article is neutral, and the child from Exampleland chooses to ignore a statement along the lines of “foobar is widely considered distasteful in Examplelandian culture”, or something else along the same lines, has the article itself suddenly failed because it has not pushed the child towards their native culture? It is again, not a property of Wikipedia, but a property of the child. It’s a reasonable criticism that articles might not be expressing the distribution of views on a subject, but that is not the same by any means as outright encouraging support for an unpopular topic. Essentially, you seem to be saying “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”.

        I apologize for my bad form, but I would appreciate it if you’d find it in you to unblock me on Twitter. It’s an annoyance, and, because it was not preceded by any objection to my behaviour, it feels unwarranted.

        I’d also like to point out that, at the actionable levels of this discussion, I often *agree* with you, and I don’t seek to upset you. My intention in commenting here is to hone the ideas behind the rationale supporting a filter system, not simply to tear down your arguments. My ideal outcome would be to find a way, together, to convince Wikipedians that a filter system is desirable. That is why I criticized your approach in my first comment: it is constructive criticism that offers an approach that I think might be more effective for reaching your goal.

        If you’re not interested in engaging with Wikipedians, then you’re not serious about your stated goal: to “get the word out, *start a conversation*, and see if we can make a difference without taking such drastic action” (emphasis added). I’m offering you a step towards the second part of that goal.

        • Reply Larry Sanger June 8, 2012 20:19 pm

          I wrote a reply to this but it was lost and I’m not going to piece it together. I’ll simply summarize the highlights:

          (1) On my first point, I wasn’t attacking a straw man but instead essentially agreeing with you.

          (2) If you are going to make the point that all illustrations of concepts are inherently neutral, you will have to say that of graphic, real photographs of murder-rapes, incest, infant molestation, disembowelment, torture, or just plain murder–or whatever horrible but “real life phenomenon” that Wikipedia has articles about. You’d have a snuff film on the “snuff film” article, which is an abhorrent idea.

          (3) You say, “An objective treatment of sex topics is relatively desirable.” I explained why, using an example of an impressionable 13-year-old. Your reply is to say that the 13-year-old might “self-acculturate,” but that doesn’t contradict my point that the article in its present form might well give some 13-year-olds ideas very much contrary to their parents’ preferences and which are by most people’s notions very much mistaken. It is out of concern for the latter, not the former, that we ought to write articles a certain way and that we should have a filter to make it clearer that the topics are dangerous for “our” (whatever it might be) culture.

          (4) I wanted to start a conversation with the wider world, not with Wikipedians. I’ve butted heads with Wikipedians for over 10 years. I’m tired of it and have lost patience for their sad, twisted, insular world. They won’t listen to me, anyway; but they might listen to an outraged public and declining funds when I organize a boycott in the fall–which I am likely to do if they take no further action on a filter.

        • Reply Brian June 8, 2012 21:07 pm

          I have to agree with Nihiltres in their #5 rationale above:

          “5. The primary goal of a filter is to avoid surprises. If a person searches for content about cucumbers, or toothbrushes, perhaps, there isn’t an expectation that they will find sexual content. . . ”

          However, by that very logical rationale, Wikipedia should be extremely filtered. The “encyclopedia,” after all, is very old. Encyc. Britannica started over 240 years ago and has been a standard reference in libraries and many homes. Other encyclopedias have also been standards until recently. I think a typical survey of the general public would find that they would be very surprised, if not shocked and dumbfounded, to discover those encyclopedias included the countless sex-related topics and their supporting photos.

          If Wikipedia considers itself an “encyclopedia,” then many of its readers are in for many surprises, even without searching. In any case, “searching” is not necessary to visit most of the articles as they have tons of links from everywhere. And a search of most of the terms mentioned, fisting, masturbation, erection, etc. naturally has Wikipedia as the #1 search result.

          I also agree with Nihiltres’s comment, “If a person is searching for this content, it is reasonable to assume that they will find it, whether on Wikipedia, or elsewhere . . ”

          That’s the same argument used for legalizing drugs. It’s also the same argument used by our gun lobby and military arms dealers trying to sell to many of the world’s dictators: If we won’t sell them, they’ll just get them somewhere else.

          • Brian June 13, 2012 16:07 pm

            There’s an awful lot of references to “adult” content which should be what is filtered to keep kids out. However, that implies that looking obscene or porn images is OK for most adults. But I don’t think that is the problem.

            One way to look at Wikipedia as a “free” encyclopedia would be to compare it to having a giant public library near your home. Upon entering, you may see arrows pointing to the various sections: magazines, newspapers, science, biographies, fiction, reference, etc. Imagine seeing an arrow pointing to the “porn” or “adults only” department. At the very large “adults only” section there is a librarian checking IDs. That librarian would be the “filter.”

            Asking for such a “filter” implies that most “adults” visiting that “public” library see no problem with having an “adults only” section. However, I’d guess that 99% or more of Wikipedia’s reference materials, paid for by cash donations and thousands of volunteer editors, is of general “all ages” material.

            One also has to wonder if Wikipedia feels its mission would be undermined if the “adults only” section were simply minimized enough to keep it “general.” Consider that readers visited the article on “president of the U.S.” 220,000 times over the last month, verses 467,000 visits for “masturbation.” They read about “kissing” 69,000 times, but “erection, 151,000 times. “Love”, 317,000 visits, verses 627,000 visits to “sexual intercourse.”

            The massive sizes of the “adult” articles is also relevant, with “sexual intercourse” nearly twice the size of “love.” And the very large article about “President of the Unites States” is the same size as the one for “masturbation.”

            Maybe we should ask Mr. Webster to redefine “encyclopedia” for the modern age. Greek enkyklios (encircled) + paideia education, child rearing, from paid-, pais “child.” But in the meantime we shouldn’t imply that “adults” have no problem with most of the porn-style images and lengthy text. Most “adults” don’t need to see 8 detailed blow-up images of every stage of an “erection,” along with 1,200 words, to convey the meaning.

          • Larry Sanger June 13, 2012 16:26 pm

            I certainly don’t need to see all that information. It smacks, as I say, of management by an adolescent mind-set, which, in a top-10 website, is more offensive to me than the imagery.

            Still, I’m trying to pick my fights carefully. Complaining about the crassness of Wikipedia’s approach to adult topics might be fun, but it simply isn’t as important as a filter.

  48. Reply 10 choses que je ne savais pas la semaine dernière #97 « Notre Lien Quotidien June 11, 2012 02:25 am

    [...] the Good Old Naughty Days, A Free Ride et toute sorte de réjouissances porno publiées sur Wikipédia. Merci [...]

  49. Reply Wikipedia co-founder releases video of site's 'porn problem' | Digital Trends June 11, 2012 18:34 pm

    [...] create misinformation, started to level the pornography charges against Wikipedia late last month in a blog post that stated that “the real problem [is] when Wikipedia features some of the most disgusting [...]

  50. Reply Loads of porn on Wikipedia warns co-founder | Catholic Canada June 12, 2012 20:42 pm

    [...] features some of the most disgusting sorts of porn you can imagine,” Sanger states in a blog post on his website, “while being heavily used by [...]

  51. Reply Saud June 13, 2012 04:02 am

    Its a very serious problem that needs to be addressed by the board of directors of wikipedia, or else it will have a negative impact on the children as they use wiki for information and knowledge gaining purpose. I would strongly support Larry for taking this issue very seriously and suggesting of adding a filter which should eventually prevent this.

  52. Reply Nathan June 18, 2012 09:36 am

    Wikipedia contents have a permissive license. There should be a meta site wrapped around wikipedia (wikikids.org? kids.wikipedia.org?) that presents whitelisted articles only, with a community whitelisting mechanism. The whitelist flags can exist entirely outside of wikipedia, and in fact the entire project can exist outside of wikipedia. No need to involve the wikipedia community at all if they are not interested.

    • Reply Larry Sanger June 18, 2012 10:08 am

      I like the general idea, but I disagree that the Wikimedia Foundation should not be closely involved. First, they raise $20 million per year; that money should pay for projects like this, which serve the public, which believes Wikipedia is an appropriate resource for kids. Second, many people will blindly keep using Wikipedia if the WMF does not do the right, and honest, thing and point them in the direction of kid-safe filters or a kid-safe site.

      I do agree that we don’t want the typical silly Wikipedian to futz with the filter data. Having a separate website suits me, as long as it is closely integrated with Wikipedia (i.e., there is little or no lag), and as long as the “WP for Kids” site is advertised loud and clear from within the main Wikipedia.

  53. Reply » Two Wikipedia Co-Founders, Two Very Different Causes The Wikipedian June 29, 2012 16:59 pm

    [...] recent months, Larry Sanger has has taken up a more conservative cause, focused on some of Wikipedia’s more controversial content. Sanger is critical of Wikipedia for allowing the inclusion of sexually explicit photos on articles [...]

  54. Reply Anthony July 2, 2012 05:40 am

    Thank you Mr. Sanger for your commitment to this issue. I do hope that ultimately there is a filtering mechanism offered by Wikipedia, because I do believe that Wikipedia provides much of value to the world, and I would like to be able to continue my usage in good conscience. I currently use a site-base filtering mechanism on my home internet connection, as well as a second layer of filtering which filters based on information provided by a third-party. I did find that my current filtering is already blocking all of commons.wikimedia.org which blocks much of the content referred to in your article above, while of course also blocking much of what I personally feel is of value. I am now faced with the dilemma of whether to block all of Wikipedia.org as well. I would rather not have to do so, though there are other sources for most of the content my family and I would lose out on.

    One thought that would be helpful if ultimately Wikipedia is unwilling to implement any sort of filter, is if they would at least separate ALL media from the text onto a separate domain. Then we could at least filter using a domain-based filtering mechanism to achieve a text-only Wikipedia, with just place-holder images taking the place of all the broken links. That would not be an ideal solution, though in my opinion that would be better than blocking all of Wikipedia.org.

    Much has been discussed about images/videos that are inappropriate and or damaging to children. Another aspect that could be considered, (my apologies for not being able to quote references) is the negative impact “adult” material can have on some adults. (Maybe others could provide research studies.) It is my belief though that some individuals can become addicted to consuming “adult” media, to the point that their preoccupation becomes damaging to their career, family, and other relationships in the same way that alcoholism has a destructive effect. Obviously most would seek out that content through other sites, but it is significant to note that the predominance of Wikipedia and it’s assummed “safety” so-to-speak, means that it will not normally be filtered in many locations such as schools and libraries where typical porn-focused sites will be blocked. So thus Wikipedia is currently enabling broader access to this potentially harmful content to those porn-addicted individuals. And the same accidental exposure concern applies to these adults as well–if I am recovering from an addiction to “adult” content I would like to be able to use Wikipedia without concern that I might stumble across it.

    I personally believe that much of the neutrality argument from the libertarians you describe is deliberate, cowardly, deception on the part of those standing behind it. “Come in to my tent, I have many great things to share with you”, when once inside the tent you find much that you did not expect. I find this to be no more morally noble than a molester inticing a child into a van with offers of playing with his puppy. If these self-described morally superior individuals had the guts to be upfront with their content-paint the picture on the van so-to-speak, they would find public outrage, and see their funding and good-will dry up immediately. To whomever controls the content of the main Wikipedia landing page, I dare you to put the top 10 by popularity images right up on the main page, along with streams of the most popular videos. I know you do not have the guts to do it. If these images are so “neutral” and harmless, why not?

    I personally am now going to share your article with my children’s schools as well as some religious leaders I know well so that they can make informed decisions regarding the content they provide and pass this information on to those they have influence over. Sadly the majority of them will likely choose to block all of Wikipedia since there is not another simple, effective solution. I guess that the Wikpedians, as you term them, find that preferable.

    I leave your readers with one question–that is if any are aware of any content-based third-party filtering tools that are effective at providing a “family friendly” Wikipedia. If so, would you please share this information in the comments? (And yes we already try to monitor our childrens internet use as much as possible, but you can’t be over their shoulder all the time.)

    Thanks again, Mr. Sanger

    • Reply Natasha Brown July 7, 2012 19:32 pm

      Thank you so much Anthony for voicing your concern This world needs “family friendly” Wikipedia.

      Many people comment that parents should monitor their children’s internet use. But children in our world don’t have parents! – There are wars, illnesses, natural disasters. – Many children have biological parents who aren’t able to love them and/or care for them.

      Many of us aren’t able nor to adopt those children nor to offer any help to their parents. We aren’t able to offer them love that they deserve. The list we can do is to protect them from the things that can hurt them as much as we can.

  55. Reply Global Voices | 网民报导:电信专刊 - 中国数字时代 July 9, 2012 03:45 am

    [...] Sanger呼籲使用者正视许多内容条目含有成人内容的现象,他也要求推动色情资讯过滤机制。暴行巴林人权运动人士Nabeel [...]

  56. Reply Quora July 13, 2012 09:11 am

    Is Wikipedia compliant with CIPA?…

    The Child Internet Protection Act (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act) requires that school districts who receive funding through e-rate block “obscene” websites. Wikipedia arguably hosts quite a bit of obscene material (see,…

  57. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » Wikimedia Foundation Board Officially Rejects Porn Filter July 15, 2012 13:02 pm

    [...] had grown substantially since 2010. With the help of those colleagues I carefully wrote and posted this explanation of the problem, which got quite a bit of exposure. As I put it via Twitter: [...]

  58. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » Is it time to establish Internet user unions? July 18, 2012 10:24 am

    [...] to libel law, are often forced to participate in an arcane and often unfair system. Wikipedia also lacks any filter for their enormous porn holdings, while its representatives continue to tout it as a [...]

  59. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » The Saga of Wikimedia UK and its Chair July 31, 2012 10:13 am

    [...] story goes on to discuss Wikipedia’s problem of unfiltered porn, readily available to the school children who use it, and includes my YouTube video about the [...]

  60. Reply someone September 10, 2012 23:50 pm

    You are totally right something must be done to solve this serious issue, anyone who disagrees with this is a neglectful person and the WMF are a bunch of hypocrites if they say “it’s safe for children to use, but if they see something pornographic like bestiality or a sick fetish is then mommy and daddy’s fault”.

  61. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » Let’s try out “Golden Filter Premium” on Wikipedia, shall we? September 12, 2012 16:01 pm

    [...] are heavily used by school children, and widely available in schools, and yet they host enormous amounts of porn. Anyway, the journalist-activist and I had a charming exchange, the end of which went like [...]

  62. Reply Larry Sanger Blog » My Greatest Hits September 22, 2012 12:08 pm

    [...] What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem? (May 2012) [...]

  63. Reply So, you didn’t know that Wikipedia has a porn problem? – Featurette October 26, 2012 06:25 am

    [...] Ich crossposte hier einen Input in eine Debatte, in die ich mich einmal kurz selbst eingeschaltet hatte (und schnell wieder raus geschaltet) und die ich für hoffnungslos hielt. Aber vielleicht gibt es ja doch eine Möglichkeit, einzuwirken und an vermeintlich nichtdiskutierbaren Punkten zu diskutieren… From Larry Sanger’s blog: [...]

  64. Reply Guest Hey December 12, 2012 14:34 pm

    Hello, I agree with most of what you say and I think that this really should be more well known and talked about.

    One thing I don’t really like and find quite ironic is the fact that you are able to share this on Reddit of all places. Isn’t that site even worse than Wikipedia when it comes to this? With all the controversies etc…
    I understand that you might want this to reach as many people as possible, but still.

    Thank you for taking your time to write about this and hopefully also reading and responding to this comment.

  65. Reply Adiora January 3, 2013 03:02 am

    First, I want to clarify that I don’t disagree with you on moral grounds. Just practical ones. You seem to be trying to cram the genie back into a bottle that never really held it in the first place.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I see three general assertions:
    1) Children should be sheltered from porn.
    2) WMF should do something to protect children if they are going to promote themselves to children.
    3) WMF should not censor content, just create a screen.

    As for the first, I’m afraid children are smarter than most adults give them credit for. Even before the advent internet, I figured out from a line in Tom Sawyer that human anatomy books had some kind of titillating content. Just from that I learned all kinds of things my parents wish I hadn’t when I was in the second grade. Maybe that was too young, but if it’s a question of censoring Mark Twain, I’m willing to say early exposure is the lesser of the evils. Unless there is a major, MAJOR shift in the functioning of the internet, keeping kids barred from adult content is just not going to be possible anymore.

    If your issue isn’t with access to the information/images in general, rather that it’s available through a source people don’t think to question, then (my apologies for being blunt) I think your idea of a click-through warning is worse than ineffective. It would probably be counter-productive. The warnings on television that “the following may be disturbing for some viewers” draws kids and teens like moths. There is no better way to guarantee a child will try to read something than banning it. The warning screen would be nothing more than a gesture, and without outright censorship, it would do nothing more than call attention to the adult material.

    I’m going to go with the “parents should be responsible, not the internet” side of the argument, but not by telling people to hover over their kids’ desks. When I learned about the birds and the bees from books, magazines, movies, and eventually websites, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I was painfully shy with no close friends, and my parents just told me not to read smut and left it at that. That didn’t make me stop wanting to learn, it just left me at the mercy of my own naïveté, discomfort, and curiosity.

    So, I say to parents that we need to teach our kids to be educated, responsible, comfortable, and respectful when figuring out their sexuality. What kids don’t need is to feel guilty, ashamed, lost, or – above all – rebellious. Teach kids that their bodies are absolutely their own to do with as they choose, and those choices, good or bad, will affect them forever.

    They say that the only thing evil needs to work in this world is for good people to do nothing. I say the only thing needed for children to develop warped or harmful attitudes about sex is to have all the well-meaning and responsible adults in their lives turn a blind eye and sweep the whole subject under a rug.

    Or behind an opt-in warning screen.

    • Reply Larry Sanger January 3, 2013 09:50 am

      No, I’m not trying to cram the porn genie back into the bottle. I’m not an idiot. Are you meaning to assert that I am? Do you really think that a co-founder of Wikipedia is that ignorant about how the Internet works?

      I’m not sure I ever argued for the much more difficult-to-defend proposition that children should be sheltered from porn, although I happen to believe that. I maintain the much more modest proposition that websites should support parents and schools in their efforts to protect children from porn. It’s much worse considering the truly egregious stuff that Wikipedia hosts and defends. We’re not talking about the sort of stuff that you can find in anatomy books.

      The point is not to make it impossible for children to view porn. If they really want to, they’ll be able to. No part of my argument implies anything different. The point is to reinforce the idea that it is verboten for children, to reinforce the societal norm that it is not appropriate for children actually to be viewing the stuff.

      If I were designing the filter, I would want it not just to be a warning screen but something that makes it impossible to view the stuff as long as the user is logged in with that account. Besides, if Wikipedia had the “to-filter” data in its database, then it would be easy for people to build more powerful tools.

      The “parents should be responsible, not the internet” talking point is one made and propagated by teenagers and people who are not responsible for children. How should parents be responsible without tools that make it possible for them to exercise their responsibility? It’s pretty hard (not impossible, I’m sure) to find a filter that does fine-grained filtering of the sort that Wikipedia should be doing. Yes, parents would like to be responsible. Lacking an effective filter, how? Stop kids from using Wikipedia? That’s my solution for now. My child is forbidden to use Wikipedia. We have a subscription to Britannica, which is perfect for my 6-year-old’s purposes.

      Besides, this silly point is effectively demolished by the reply that Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.–all the big boys–are cooperating with parents and teachers in this way. Why not Wikipedia?

      Unlike you, I don’t paternalistically presume to tell parents how to treat the topic of sexuality. If they want to raise their children with no boundaries–poor children–that’s their prerogative as parents. If they do, then they should be supported in reasonable efforts in approximately similar ways to Google, etc.

  66. Reply TMG April 9, 2013 00:27 am

    Well, I don’t feel like delving too far into this mostly pointless argument, but I will say one thing, however. My pornographic viewing habits began at the ripe old age of 7. Perusing a few boxes of Playboys, etc. that were left in the hallway of my apartment building in the lower East Side of Manhattan. I saw in a few of your comments, that you denigrate pornography as being so dangerous to ‘little boys.’ Alas, as a wee boy at the time, apparently I was immune to said ‘dangers,’ seeing as how I grew up fine (37 now), have a child of my own (she’s 9) and have had many healthy sexual relationships in the course of my life, and, lo and behold, I didn’t magically become some naive, hateful, misogynist.

    Porn – First world problem.

    • Reply Larry Sanger April 9, 2013 08:45 am

      Actually, I’m not sure how harmful Playboy-type porn is to kids. I think it might depend on the kid (and their upbringing). But a lot of the stuff available online, and on Wikipedia, is not Playboy-type porn.

      In any case, my personal opinion about porn (as I said, I’m a libertarian) is irrelevant. My point is that parents should be given the tools they need to take their own approach.

      • Reply TMG April 9, 2013 09:42 am

        The only issue I have, is that too many parents take the knee jerk reaction with everything involving their children. Parenting is to be a guide when a child needs it, not to have their entire lives endlessly policed to avoid the ‘evils’ of the world. Time and time again, the most messed up people I’ve met in this world were ALWAYS the sheltered ones. Never those who were allowed to experience things, with parents there to explain the pros and cons of it all, but the ones who’s parents basically put them inside of a bubble. Sure, material like this might not be suitable for all young children, however, I don’t think proper methodology of dealing with it is to enable censoring in any fashion. People really, really need to get over the concept that children are these delicate, fragile beings. They aren’t. Not in the least. They might end up BECOMING fragile, but that’s not their own making, that’s the sole responsibility (fault) of parents and society panicking every time they get so much as a small cut. Adults must learn to stop pushing their hang-ups, fears and apprehensions upon their children.

        • Reply Larry Sanger April 9, 2013 10:20 am

          So, you think the “fisting” article might be appropriate for some (not all) children? And that those who do not see it, and similarly perverted stuff, would be “living in a bubble”?

          Anyway, your point is ultimately irrelevant, so let’s get back to the real issue. It isn’t your job to tell parents how to raise their children. You can wish they raised them a different way. Fine. But if you’re going to be truly tolerant and liberal in your attitude, you should be tolerant and liberal of the wide diversity of parenting styles. In order to support that, you’d have to support having some opt-in filters, as Google has.

          • TMG April 9, 2013 13:51 pm

            And, no, you missed my point by leagues and bounds, it was not that pornography and such and the lack of viewing would put children in bubbles, but that far too many are raised by knee jerk reactions, and that kind of effort does not work in a child’s best interest. A better way to deal with it, IMO, instead of censoring something they ‘might’ (e.g., less than 1% chance) see, is to be more open and communicative with your kids. The world isn’t a pretty place, and sheltering doesn’t help. Hasn’t helped a single kid in the history of forever. And it never will.

          • Larry Sanger April 9, 2013 14:02 pm

            Your notion that sheltering kids from porn involves “knee jerk reactions” is idiotic. Sheltering does help; some kids who are exposed to the seamy underbelly of society are sometimes scarred by it for life. Apparently, you don’t have children. Anyway, I’m done talking to you. You’ve proven the quality of your judgment.

  67. Reply TMG April 9, 2013 13:48 pm

    I don’t support Google’s opt-in filters.

  68. Reply Wiki1 - Blog 1015 - Site Home - TechNet Blogs December 11, 2013 00:01 am

    [...] Sanger, Larry. "What should we do about Wikipedia's porn problem?". Retrieved July 26, [...]

  69. Reply Wikimedia Foundation's new VP of Engineering introduces himself | Wikipediocracy October 20, 2014 21:16 pm

    […] What should we do about Wikipedia’s porn problem? (LarrySanger.org, 29 May 2012) […]

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