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

Aryeh Gregor Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com
Fri May 15 18:46:04 UTC 2009

On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 1:44 PM, Birgitte SB <birgitte_sb at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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.

Well, for my part, I think the entire "Wikipedia is not censored"
policy completely misunderstands what censorship is and why it's bad.
It's being used as an epithet, like calling someone a Nazi if they
propose more regulation.  The policy as implemented today is IMO
partly a matter of pushing libertarian social values on all viewers
whether they like them or not.

> 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.

Absolutely.  The key characteristic of censorship is that it keeps
people uninformed of things they want to know about.  It's therefore
not censorship to permit people to not read things they *don't* want
to see, and it's not censorship to ask for confirmation before showing
people something.  Censorship would be if I advocated the deletion of
offensive images.  I don't.  I advocate making them one extra click
away for people who don't want to see them inline.

> 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."

I think we agree on this, but perhaps I go a little further than you.
The key point is that if we can avoid offending people *without*
reducing the information available in the encyclopedia, that's a
worthy goal.  If a Chinese partisan is offended by [[Tiananmen Square
protests of 1989]] because it portrays the Chinese government in a
negative light, then too bad -- the facts require that we portray it
in a negative light.  If a Christian is offended by [[Penis]] because
it contains a picture of a penis, on the other hand, accommodation is
possible without compromising our mission.  For instance, we might
choose to put all images of penises "below the fold", and post a
warning at the top.  The amount of information actually *lost* is
zero.  It becomes marginally harder to access, but only very slightly,
so if we can avoid offending a lot of people, it would be worth it.

But this idea is generally rejected on enwiki because it's
"censorship".  I haven't seen any reasonable justification for why
this form of "censorship" (which it isn't by the common definition of
the word) is actually a bad thing.

> 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.

What about requiring an extra click for those who haven't opted in to
see sexual images?  Or even only for those who have opted *out*?  Is
that against Wikipedia's mission, and if so, why?

> 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.

Does that imply that you believe [[Goatse.cx]] should in fact have an
above-the-fold illustration of its subject matter, or not?  If not,
how is that any different from [[Penis]]?  And if so . . . well, I
think you're in the minority here.

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