ISPs flip censorship switch on Wikipedia

A bevy of United Kingdom Internet service providers are restricting Wikipedia access over child pornography allegations.

The move, reported by ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins, caused a bit of a ruckus (Techmeme). Rupert spied the following notice as UK users attempted to edit Wikipedia.

"Wikipedia has been added to an Internet Watch Foundation UK website blacklist, and your Internet service provider has decided to block part of your access. Unfortunately, this also makes it impossible for us to differentiate between different users, and block those abusing the site without blocking other innocent people as well."

The ISPs blocking UK users reportedly include Virgin Media, Be/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon and Opal.

The problem: Wikipedia has run into the Internet Watch Foundation's criteria for child pornography over a 1970s album cover from the Scorpions, a German heavy metal band. The Wikipedia entry on the album-Virgin Killer-is up to date with the ban. Wikipedia's entry on Virgin Killer notes:

In 2008 the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a UK-based non-government organization, added Wikipedia's Virgin Killer article to its blacklist due to the online encyclopedia's use of an image of the original Virgin Killer album cover. As a result, people using many major UK ISPs were blocked from viewing the entire article. Although the controversial cover art is still provided on the deluxe boxed edition of the album sold worldwide, the IWF classified the image of the cover as a "potentially illegal indecent image of a child". The block was accomplished by ISP proxy systems impersonating Wikipedia's servers, which had the side effects of degrading performance and left site administrators with little option but to block a significant portion of the UK from editing Wikipedia or creating accounts.

It's unclear where this censorship riff heads from here, but the ban appears clumsy on many fronts. ZDNet UK will be following the story.

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