IWF Backtracks On Wikipedia Controversial Image Ban

by Desire Athow
, 10 Dec 2008News

The row over the 32-year old album cover depicting a nude teenage girl, which some described as child pornography, has apparently ended with the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK Internet Quasi Watchdog, climbing down from its censorship calls.

Two of the UK Webosphere most read (and respected) blogs have reported that their readers were mostly against the ban and in Jack Schofield's own words, attracting "widespread derision".

In a statement posted yesterday, the IWF said that "its board considered these findings (surrounding the image that was potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978) and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list."

Judiciously, the IWF - which is independent self-regulatory body, funded by the EU and the wider online industry - recognised that the turmoil generated by the whole debate actually encouraged others to post the image on blogs and other websites around the web, which made the IWF's task of monitoring impossible. They acknowledged that "on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect".

Wikipedia is no stranger to controversy but it is the Internet Watch Foundation which found itself in the weaker position as it was forced to backtrack in what has been an humiliating episode.

Mike Godwin, General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation which operates Wikipedia, reckons that the problem highlights the gap between old "tools" like IWF and new ones like Wikipedia.

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