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

Samuel Klein meta.sj at gmail.com
Fri May 15 21:08:59 UTC 2009

Nice thread.

On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 2:46 PM, Aryeh Gregor
<Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

I think the policy is handy, and doesn't *completely* misunderstand,
but it does get confused around the points you raise.

>> 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.
> 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.

The former is not censorship, though some implementations may make
third-party censorship easier.   There's a balance to be maintained
b/t virally hampering censorship and facilitating user freedom of

The latter is a specific implementation of the former, and sets a
[low] bar to access.  Asking users to follow a link offsite is a
higher bar.  Asking users to google for something on their own is
still higher, and most of us will agree that refusing to mention
something by name crosses over into censorship.  refusing to mention
something by reference or acknowledge that it exists is even stronger,
and punishing people for doing any of the above or for meta-discussion
of it is double-plus ungood.  But this is a spectrum.

> 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.

This is not so different from your other example.  The Chinese
government and other groups would agree on 90% of the information in
that article.  Things you can do to provide the same information
without unnecessary offense:
 - Write the text so that most of the paragraphs are inoffensive to
most audiences, rather than letting an idea known to be offensive to
some make an appearance in every paragraph
 - Presenting facts which [you feel] portray the government in a
negative light, without original commentary ("this clearly portrays
the government...")
 - Cite third-party interpretations of these facts, and (if you think
that the chinese government's view represents a significant body of
readers? balancing representation is tricky) include the governments
interp where appropriate.

> 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.

Just to repeat that these two are not so different, if a small
minority are offensed by the sight of a bared wrist, that's not a
reason to accomodate them by putting a picture of a wriste 'below the
fold'.  In the case you describe, I don't think any accomodation is
appropriate given the small # of readers who would not expect to see
such a picture on that article.

> 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,

Not zero.  Small but magnified by every visitor.  And this loss should
be balanced against the small benefit? to a minority of visitors.
Again, I don't think this case is very close -- I think if we properly
assessed the balance any accomodation would be quite small.

On the goatse.cx article, the accomodation would be (and is) much greater.

>> 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

Provides /all/ encyclopedic content, /to everyone/.  We're debating
what "all" and "everyone" means here.  Reducing 'all' by a fraction
and potentially increasing 'everyone' by a fraction is a balance worth

> 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?

Opt-out options are a step forward.  We should have more of them.   I
certainly don't want to see active contributors burnt out when they
just want a more pleasant browsing experience.  For my part, I don't
want to see any more categories whose names are longer than 100
characters; enough is enough.  Noone's coded this preference feature,
is all...


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