[Foundation-l] WP edit/access blocking in the UK - statement from the WMF

Jay A. Walsh jwalsh at wikimedia.org
Mon Dec 8 05:38:38 UTC 2008

Many of you have probably noticed the considerable media coverage over the weekend about 
blocking of WP content in the UK, and much more alarming, the blocking of WP editing for 
most UK internet users.

The Wikimedia Foundation is concerned about this situation.  We are in communication with 
the responsible self-regulatory authority in the UK, the IWF.  To explain our position to 
the media and among our community of volunteers we will be distributing the following 
press statement later tonight.


Jay Walsh
Head of Communications
+1 (415) 839 6885 x 609



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

Wikimedia Foundation opposes action by internet watchdog group to blacklist encyclopedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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