IWF appeals procedure reverses Wikipedia block
Wikipedia should be back to normal for people, i.e. anonymous editing from UK connections should work, and where the site was slowing down due to being passed through a providers IWF proxy this should have gone away.
It appears that the Internet Watch Federation (IWF) invoked its own appeals procedure and decided to remove the Wikipedia Scorpions page from its IWF list of pages with potentially illegal indecent images of children under the age of 18 on them.
"Following representations from Wikipedia, IWF invoked its Appeals Procedure and has given careful consideration to the issues involved in this case. The procedure is now complete and has confirmed that the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings 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.
IWF’s overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect. We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users. Wikipedia have been informed of the outcome of this procedure and IWF Board’s subsequent decision."Extract from press release on IWF website
This incident has made the IWF and its work much more visible to UK Internet users, with many previously not aware of its existence at all, and even less aware of the procedures providers have for blocking material that is on the list. Some providers make it clear to users and others hide the blocking behind fake 404 errors which has created some confusion as people assume there is a fault with Wikipedia. In the case of sites hosted abroad set-up to explicitly host child porn, a 404 may be preferrable, but for mainstream sites such as Wikipedia users would often prefer an indication of the block.
One area not resolved is whether the IWF would add the complete web page URL to its proscribed list for any new material or simply block the image. URL's are notoriously difficult to manage, and it would be all to easy for the IWF to think it has blocked an image by blocking a URL but still leave the page visible to UK web users, e.g. accessing a page via a sites websearch often produced a very different URL to one where people have navigated to the site.
It is an unfortunate world where bodies like the IWF are needed but the current amount of discussion of web censorship and monitoring means incidents like this are likely to increase. Taste and decency has been a big issue for TV and radio in the last year or two, and as the Internet increasingly becomes just another entertainment medium issues in this area will become more mainstream.