[Foundation-l] Wikipedia is not censored (was Wikipedia is not the Karma Sutra, was Re: commons and freely licensed sexual imagery

Birgitte SB birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Fri May 15 17:44:56 UTC 2009

--- On Thu, 5/14/09, Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Wikipedia is not the Karma Sutra, was Re: commons  and freely licensed sexual imagery
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Thursday, May 14, 2009, 4:59 PM
> Anyone who thinks Wikipedia isn't
> censored because it allows pictures
> of penises is fooling himself.  Wikipedia is
> absolutely censored from
> images its editors find disgusting.  Most of its
> editors find sexual
> images just fine, and a large percentage view their
> suppression as
> harmful, "sex-negative", based on obsolete religious
> practice,
> whatever, so they're allowed.  Look at David Goodman's
> message earlier
> for a good example of this.  Sexual images aren't
> allowed because
> Wikipedia isn't censored, they're allowed because the
> predominant view
> of sex among Wikipedians is that it's a recreation like any
> other.
> If you think Wikipedia's imagery is not censored, please
> explain why
> [[Goatse.cx]] does not have an image of its subject
> matter.  Such an
> image would clearly fall under our fair use criteria,
> wouldn't it?
> It's definitely essential for understanding of the
> material.  But how
> long do you think the image would last if someone added
> it?  I'd be
> surprised if no one tried to add it before, in fact. 
> I'd also be
> surprised if anyone could even upload the image without
> having it
> speedy deleted as vandalism and getting a warning that
> they'd be
> blocked if they did it again.

> [[Nick Berg]] is primarily known because of the beheading
> video
> released about him, but his article chooses for some reason
> to depict
> a still from the video where he's still alive, rather than
> depicting
> the act of beheading itself.  I would argue that the
> beheading part of
> the video is very educational.  Most people's ideas of
> what beheading
> is like come from the movies, and are terribly
> inaccurate.  Do you
> think anyone would object if I added a picture of the knife
> passing
> through his neck up at the top?  Somehow I think so.
> Can anyone name me even *one* article where a gruesomely
> gory
> photograph is prominently displayed, in fact?  There
> have been edit
> wars even on more moderately disgusting articles, like
> [[Human
> feces]], with no clear "Wikipedia is not censored!"
> resolution.  Why?
> Because people don't like looking at images that are
> disgusting.  Real
> surprise, huh?  But Wikipedia isn't censored, right?

I think this email really shows a misunderstanding of "Wikipedia is not censored" is about; so I am starting a new thread to discuss the issue.  

Censorship is deciding to withhold information for the purpose of keeping people (in some cases particular groups of people like children or non-members) uninformed. It is not simply choosing the least offensive image of human feces to use from equally informative options.  This is something I said on-wiki years ago during a particular clash between "Wikipedia is not censored" and a group of people being offended:

"I never take an action for the purpose of causing offense. However I am certain people can be offended for a number of reasons by things I have done or said. I find this to be unfortunate but unavoidable. As far as Wikipedia goes it, there are a number of policies and guidelines here which help us navigate different cultural norms. I do my best to rely on these as well as precedent here over my own gut instinct of what I find personally acceptable. When WP norms lead to people being offended; I do think we should try to mitigate this as much as this is possible without compromising the core principle of providing *free encyclopedic content*. In this case little can done unless another freely licensed image is found. I would very much prefer to see these garments on a dress form or mannequin rather than live models. Not because the models offend me personally, but because I think live models make the photo more offensive to Mormons without adding
 anything encyclopedic over the same picture on a dress form."

The key concept behind "Wikipedia is not censored" is that Wikipedia provides free encyclopedic content.  So long as that underlying goal of providing encyclopedic information is met then we are not censoring.  When we decide that certain information should simply not be available to people we are censoring.  When we decide that a particular image does not inform people on the subject any better than another, or that the subject is not notable, then we are not censoring.  Merely removing an image or not having it in the first place is not necessarily proof that Wikipedia is censored.

That said I am certain that there are articles on Wikipedia that are censored, just as there are biased articles and false articles.  Wikipedia has never been perfect in the application of it's ideals.  

I think the scope of what exactly is encyclopedic is a worthwhile discussion (on Wikipedia at least).  What makes a sexuality concept notable?  

I don't think advocating that censorship should be promoted is a practical approach however much it might stir people up.  I don't think repeatedly mailing this list with a the latest image that someone believes is unacceptable is going to produce results.  In fact the next thread that PM starts about a particular image that is *an example of a problem* rather than a thread about a proposal to address a problem is going to put him on my personal ignore list.  Because I am finding the unproductive sensationalist approach very annoying.  List traffic is not predictive of results.  It might even be inversely related, after a certain level.

Birgitte SB


More information about the foundation-l mailing list