[Foundation-l] and what if...

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 12 10:52:53 UTC 2008

I can not help reflect further on the whole Virgin Killer story.

Whilst I am very happy of the final outcome, and thank David Gerard and 
WMF for having handled that very well, I feel also a big disatisfied by 
the way we acknowledged what happen and discuss future steps.

We all perfectly know that if this particular image was borderline, 
there are images or texts that are illegal in certain countries. I am 
not even speaking of China here, but good old westernish countries.
In some countries, it may be sexually-oriented picts. In others, it may 
be violence. In others yet, some texts we host are forbidden. I am not 
going to cite any examples publicly ;-)

Until now, we have blinded ourselves in claiming that
* we do not really need to respect local countries law. We respect by 
default the law of the country where projects are hosted (USA)
* if a country is not happy with some of the content, they can bring the 
affair in front of a local tribunal. Then it will have to go in front of 
an international tribunal. This will last 5 years at least. Good for us.
* if a legal decision forbid us to show a certain article or a certain 
image, we'll implement a system to block showing the images or text in a 
certain country.

And that was it !

Now, the fact is that we see that other mecanisms can work much better 
than the legal route. It is sufficient that a Foundation, privately 
funded by ISP, establish a black list, for the image/text to be not 
accessible. And on top of that, in a few hours, for most of the citizens 
of this country to be blocked from editing.

Now, seriously, what is more important right now ?
That citizens can not read one article ?
Or that all the citizens of a country can not edit all articles any more ?

I would argue that the content of Wikipedia can be copied and 
distributed by anyone, so preventing reading our site is not such a bid 
However, editing can only be done on our site, so the impact of blocking 
in editing is quite dramatic.

My point is not to bend on local laws at all.
But I'd like to see people change their minds about the traditional 
route we used to think we could be blocked in "democratic" countries 
(legal route, with local then international tribunal).
And I'd like to see people think about the "worst cases", and then work 
on how to decrease the impact (or prevent entirely) these worst cases. 
Scenario planning in short.

If tomorrow, a really illegal-in-UK image is reported to the IWF, they 
will block it for real. And they will block again editing. Is that a 
concern ? Can it happen again ? What's the risk of it happening again ? 
If it does, what do we do ? Which discussions should we start to avoid 
the entire edit-blocking again ?

And... beyond UK, what do we know about the censorship-systems the 
countries are setting into place ? I understood that Australia was 
setting up the same system than UK, but that France was rather thinking 
of other system. Should not we get to know and understand better what 
governments are planning ? Should we try to lobby them to adopt certains 
choices or not ? Should we help them adopt wise practices ?

Or should we just wait to see what's next ?


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