Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sexually graphic images on Wikipedia stir debates (continuation of a theme)

According to Computerworld today (10 Sep 2008)

Wikipedia has come under fire from some child protection groups over the inclusion of graphic sexual images in some entries. Childwise head Bernadette McMenamin told News Limited that some of the images easily accessible via the site crossed the line to what is deemed sexually explicit. The page on 'hardcore pornography', for instance, includes two stills from behind the scenes at a pornographic movie set, including one featuring explicit sex.

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The article continues..

Wikipedia has a strict anti-censorship policy – the phrase 'Wikipedia is not censored' is included in what is essentially the group's mission statement. As is the warning that "Wikipedia cannot guarantee that articles or images will always be acceptable to all readers, or that they will adhere to general social or religious norms."

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The Wikipedia article (embedded link above) notes that "Since 1969, most of the world's liberal democracies have taken steps to legalize hardcore pornography. or they increasingly fail to enforce legislation to prohibit it resulting in de facto legalization."

The latter statement is to all intents and purposes the case in New South Wales, where the alleged pornographic image depicted in the Wikipedia article would be considered mild to inconsequential by those familiar with what is on sale and often mislabeled as being "X" rated (a legal rating for the Australian Capital Territory) despite often falling outside the official "guidelines" - noting that "guidelines" are just that.

The law does not state that a legal classification has to satisfy the guidelines. The process of classification is a discretionary one as is the right to import from overseas - qualified by statements such as "to the extent the item should not be classified/imported" (paraphrased) and in my view the onus of proof should lie with those who wish to hinder freedom of sexual expression as to why an item should NOT be classified or imported rather than the reverse situation that appears to apply)

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I have noted in the past that some corporate filters block access to wikis (of which Wikipedia is just one) thus depriving employees of a useful and frequently updated source of information. This poster is not convinced that this is a healthy trend. There is a trend for some Universities to debunk Wikipedia, but again I feel this is merely to bolster their position as one of the major sources of legitimate information - despite the fact that much of that information is itself censored and I would suggest the recent book "The Porn Report" is an excellent example of this (based on a talk given by the author to the Sydney Institute) which is at the time of posting available for download from the Sydney Institute(click on the podcast section and click the podcast download for the 21st May 2008 ). I understand the research framework forbade investigation into illegal sources of pornographic content thus confining research into items legally classified by the Australian Classification Board.

It is known that University staff use Wikipedia as a source of information. We live in a changing world.

posted by Bob Bain

2 comments:

Taran Rampersad said...

While avoiding censorship is all well and good, people who lend it some thought may wonder why, for example, the hardcore pornography article actually needs those pictures. What value do they actually add?

And at what cost?

There is censorship and there is good taste - the latter being self-censorship. Being a tasteless glob of information works against the Wikipedia, not for it - and that works against the Wikipedia itself. Who will donate money to something that they cannot access?

nocensorshipaus said...

I believe that it's entirely appropriate that a cyclopedia include examples.

I can recall Desmond Morris commenting on his book "The Naked Ape" on ABC radio. He explained that as he was dealing in the realm of things that were natural to the species he couldn't allow the sensibilities of certain types of people to hinder (or censor) the depiction and description of things that might cause others to react in a negative manner. His words were "as a scientist - (assuming he is) - it is my duty and responsibility to depict and describe reality."

There are some articles within Wikipedia that are potentially more offensive to some.

There are OTHER wikis which go out of their way to depict in full detail the totally gross and offensive. Wikipedia by comparison is a tame beast which doesn't graphically depict items or distort them deliberately.

Here's an excellent starting point for other wikis and the link below satirises wikipedia itself.

http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/Wikipedia

I would suggest that if you find a tame pic of so called "hard core" porn problematic that you refrain from delving too deeply into encyclopediadramatica (or even viewing the image in that article which is a tame BDSM image)

reply from Bob Bain