[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 19:17:27 UTC 2009

--- On Fri, 5/15/09, Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Wikipedia is not censored (was 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: Friday, May 15, 2009, 1:46 PM
> 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.

Well I think that is more of an argument against misuse of the charge of censorship than an argument that censorship should be embraced.  I agree people misuse it, rather than have a meaningful discussion. But to reply that "Wikipedia *is* censored" just plays into the hand of the those who do not want 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.
> 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.

I can agree with your point here.  But the problem is that censorship, by it's true definition, is a real issue.  We can't dismiss the real issue, just because some people conflate it with "inconvenience".

> > 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?

I don't think it is against our mission and I am open-minded about a solution along those lines.  But I haven't yet seen a practical proposal for implementation of such a feature (on the workings of the content selection side) that I could support.  It has to manageable.  I can't support creating another backlog that no one is willing to dedicate the time to resolve.  Saying "Everyone can just flag stuff and work out the conflict" doesn't mean they are likely to do it.  Look at the backlogs on NPOV and Accuracy disputes. 
> > 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.

In all honesty, I don't really know.  I generally find the argument over non-free content to be not worth having, because it takes the long-range mission out of the picture. I am frankly, apathetic about whether Wikipedia even has an *article* on goatse.cx and other internet memes. I wouldn't create the article or add to it. But I wouldn't argue to remove the image if we had either. 

I would much rather formulate guidelines over the articles the are more inherently meaningful to more people.  Like STD's or even [[Kama Sutra]].  Then evaluate [[Goatse.cx]] by those guidelines and see where it falls.  I think focusing on what is meaningful rather than sensational will leads to better results.

Birgitte SB


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