For many, the Internet Watch Foundation and the list of child abuse image URL's it maintains so that UK Internet Service Providers can then run blocks has become highly visible over the course of the weekend.
A URL and image from an album cover by the Scorpions has made it onto the IWF list, due to its use of a naked child on it. The album, when sold on sites like Amazon in the UK has a UK version of the cover which features the band members, but Amazon.com does host the reportedly illegal image, and it is thought has also been reported to the IWF over the weekend.
Blocking images of child abuse is something that is worthwhile and while things cannot be totally blocked on the Internet, if nothing were done then perhaps even more draconian measures could be enforced. The blocking of the whole Wikipedia article rather than just the image is what is causing a lot of noise from Internet users, and to some extent this may be down to the ways different providers implement the IWF list. It would appear some UK providers that have the IWF list are blocking the high resolution image, but still serving the Wikipedia page with the smaller resolution thumbnail. Whether the IWF will continue to block this image hosted in many other places on the Internet as they are reported is something we will have to watch unfold. Back in 2007 O2/Be were in the headlines over some Lycos blocking, and UK Online customers seem to frequently comment on Rapidshare being blocked.
There are some suggesting that this whole situation feels like censorship of Wikipedia, and this is not because Wikipedia is not visible to people, but rather the way Wikipedia tracks editing of articles by anonymous users. Where people vandalise an article, Wikipedia blocks the IP address they come from, which, with the IWF proxy filters working on the site at present, means a large amount of the UK is seen as just a few IP addresses by the site. Registered users on Wikipedia can still edit articles.
In terms of moving forward it appears things are at an impasse since Wikipedia has a policy that it does not censor content and the material is hosted outside the UK so does not fall in to any jurisdiction where the UK can issue a take-down notice, if the image was deemed illegal. The IWF talking to the BBC indicates that it had contacted the police prior to adding the page to its list. A statement from the IWF about the Wikipedia URL in question was released yesterday. The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for profit behind Wikipedia has also released a statement in which it urges the IWF to remove Wikipedia from its blacklist, along with a Questions & Answers page for those affected.
BBC Radio 4 interviewed both the IWF and Wikipedia this morning on their program. For those who missed it, you can listen again on the BBC website. The piece was at 08:54.