[Foundation-l] Letter to the community on Controversial Content

David Levy lifeisunfair at gmail.com
Wed Oct 19 21:29:43 UTC 2011

Andreas Kolbe wrote:

> > > But if we use a *different* style, it should still be traceable to an
> > > educational or scholarly standard, rather than one we have made up, or
> > > inherited from 4chan. Would you agree?

> > Yes, and I dispute the premise that the English Wikipedia has failed
> > in this respect.

> I think we have already agreed that our standards for inclusion differ from
> those used by reliable sources.

Yes, in part.  You wrote "traceable to," not "identical to."

I elaborated in the text quoted below.

> > As I've noted, we always must gauge available images' illustrative
> > value on an individual basis.  We do so by applying criteria intended to
> > be as objective as possible, thereby reflecting (as closely as we can,
> > given the relatively small pool of libre images) the quality standards
> > upheld by reputable publications.  We also reject images inconsistent
> > with reliable sources' information on the subjects depicted therein.
> >
> > We don't, however, exclude images on the basis that others declined to
> > publish the same or similar illustrations.

> Again, on this point you advocate that we should differ from the standards
> upheld by reputable publications.

Indeed, but *not* when it comes to images' basic illustrative
properties.  Again, I elaborated in the text quoted below.

> > Images widely regarded as "objectionable" commonly are omitted for this
> > reason (which is no more relevant to Wikipedia than the censorship of
> > "objectionable" words is).  But again, we needn't seek to determine when
> > this has occurred.  We can simply apply our normal assessment criteria
> > across the board (irrespective of whether an image depicts a sexual act
> > or a pine tree).

For the "Pine" article, we examine the available images of pine trees
(and related entities, such as needles, cones and seeds) and assess
their illustrative properties as objectively as possible.  Our goal is
to include the images that best enhance readers' understanding of the

This is exactly what reputable publications do.  (The specific images
available to them differ and sometimes exceed the quality of those
available to us, of course.)

This process can be applied to images depicting almost any subject,
even if others decline to do so.  I don't insist that we automatically
include lawful, suitably licensed images or shout "WIKIPEDIA IS NOT
CENSORED!" when we don't.  I merely advocate that we apply the same
assessment criteria across the board.  Inferior images (whether they
depict pine trees, sexual acts or anything else) should be omitted.

> We're coming back to the same sticking point: you're assuming that
> reputable sources omit media because they are "objectionable", rather than
> for any valid reason, and you think they are wrong to do so.

No, I'm *not* assuming that this is the only reason, nor am I claiming
that this "wrong" for them to do.

We *always* must independently determine whether a valid reason to
omit media exists.  We might share some such reasons (e.g. low
illustrative value, inferiority to other available media, copyright
issues) with reliable sources.  Other reasons (e.g. non-free
licensing) might apply to us and not to reliable sources.  Still other
reasons (e.g. "upsetting"/"offensive" nature, noncompliance with local
print/broadcast regulations, incompatibility with paper, space/time
constraints) might apply to reliable sources and not to us.

Again, we needn't ponder why a particular illustration was omitted or
what was available to a publication by its deadline.  We need only
determine whether the images currently available to us meet the
standards that we apply across the board.

David Levy

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