Wikipedia page banned over controversial child image

An internet watchdog in the UK has taken the unprecedented step of banning users in Britain from accessing a Wikipedia web page, which contains an album cover featuring an image of a young nude girl.

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Read Gordon's Republic blog post - The IWF, Wiki, German metal, pre-pubescent art and Amazon

The IWF, which is an EU-funded non-governmental body, banned the Wikipedia entry for 'Virgin Killer', the 1976 album by German heavy metal band the Scorpions.

The girl in the image, who is now in her 30s, is completely nude apart from a cracked glass effect that conceals her genital area. The image is featured at the foot of this story, so do not read on if you are easily offended.

As a result numerous ISPs in the UK, which used the IWF's page of blacklisted sites, have banned their customers from accessing the image.

The image is still available to some UK internet users as the Wikipedia page accessed via Google is stored in the search engine's cache, which is where Brand Republic found it this morning.

As a result of the block on the page, UK users have not only been prevented from viewing the page, but also from editing any articles on Wikipedia.

The album image has been around from more than 30 years and has never previously been red carded or linked to child pornography.

Critics of the ban say that it has been imposed merely because some find it distasteful and banning it online does not stop it being viewed in books, in public libraries or in record stores.

In a statement the IWF said: "A Wikipedia web page was reported through the IWF's online reporting mechanism in December 2008. As with all child sexual abuse reports received by our hotline analysts, the image was assessed according to the UK sentencing guidelines council. The content was considered to be a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18, but hosted outside the UK."

"The specific URL was then added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.

At one stage the IWF was also said to be considering a wider ban of the album on Amazon, which also stocks it.

However, the album is no longer available online while and simply features a picture of the hairy German rockers instead of the girl.

If the IWF were to ban Amazon from being accessed by UK users it could have a disastrous affect on the online retailer and its British customers.

Critics of the IWF have accused it of acting as a self-appointed moral guardian that has overstepped its boundaries by making calls that it has no right to.

The ban also raises the issue of how far back can this kind of censorship go? If an image from 1976 is banned, will others also fall victim to moral watchdogs and overzealous groups and individuals.

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