SAN FRANCISCO—In the wake of accusations by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger that child pornography was being distributed through parent company Wikimedia Commons’ websites, Fox News has reported that administrators for the online encyclopedia are engaged in a wholesale purge of “thousands of explicit pornographic images from its websites.”
Fox also said that it is in the process of contacting “dozens” of companies that support the umbrella group Wikimedia Foundation to let them know about “the extent of graphic and sexually explicit content on the sites.” Those companies include Google, Microsoft's Bing, Yahoo!, Open Society Institute, Ford Foundation, Best Buy, USA Networks and Craigslist Foundation.
Sanger’s comments and Fox’s campaign of enlightenment have apparently worked, according to an article posted on FoxNews.com Friday which said that Wikimedia Foundation president Jimmy Wales had acknowledged the problem.
“We have had a problem with images being placed into inappropriate categories, so that viewers were exposed in unexpected ways to sexual content. Image categorization should be done in such a way that readers are not exposed unexpectedly to content that may be offensive," he wrote. Fox also reported that Wales recently wrote in the newly defunct “sexual content” category that he expected the foundation to announce a change in policy in the coming days.
“I expect the board to issue a statement within a few days offering a general philosophical support for the serious enforcement of policy on this issue," he said. "The Board normally does not get involved with detailed content decisions; I don't expect that to change."
On Wednesday, reports Foxx, Wales posted the following note on Wikimedia Commons:
“Wikimedia Commons admins [administrators allowed to edit the site, including Wales himself] who wish to remove from the project all images that are of little or no educational value but which appeal solely to prurient interests have my full support. This includes immediate deletion of all pornographic images. We should keep educational images about sexuality—mere nudity is not pornography—but as with all our projects, editorial quality judgments must be made and will be made—appropriately and in good taste. ...
"I think our existing policies here on commons are sufficient to deal with the problem—with the minor exception that many things should just be speedy deleted and argued about later. If you want to be technical about it, please consider this a policy change in that regard. Try to relax. Anything which is deleted can be resorted if there's a good reason.”
Shortly after the post went up, a purge began that apparently is still continuing.
“Images tagged for deletion—though some were still viewable Friday afternoon—include pictures of men, women and young girls involved in a range of sex acts with each other and, in some cases, with animals,” Fox reported, adding, “Numerous other categories have been entirely removed without a trace. Categories of images taken from the sites of adult entertainment companies—and from their awards shows—have been marked for deletion. Wales himself marked hundreds of images for deletion, all of which involved graphic images of sex acts.
“Still,” the article concluded, “as of Friday afternoon, dozens of categories of explicit sexual images remained on Wikimedia with no indication that they had been marked for deletion.”
Why Fox News has taken such an interest in seeing sexual content purged from Wikimedia websites is anyone’s guess, as is the bizarre connection apparently being made between illegal content such as images of child sexual abuse and legal sexual content, but that very conflation may have been on the mind of Yahoo! when it responded Friday afternoon to Fox's inquiry.
“In Dec. 2008, Yahoo! employees around the world received $50 charity gift cards to donate to charitable organizations during the holiday season through Network for Good. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an organization that is part of Network for Good’s powerful clearinghouse of non-profit organizations. Some employees elected to contribute their donation to Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. We are not aware of any illegal content on Wikipedia.”