U.K. ISPs Blacklist Wikipedia Over Album Cover Image

The U.K.’s Internet watchdog organization has blacklisted a Wikipedia article for the first time.

The article is about the Scorpions’ 1976 album “Virgin Killer.” The album, as the Wikipedia article explains, features a very young-looking naked girl on its cover. A cracked glass effect covers her lower region, but her upper-half is completely exposed and visible. Some countries chose to replace it with an alternative image when the album came out, Wikipedia explains.

For some reason, all these years later, someone has complained to the British Internet Watch Foundation about the image — and the group has decided to censor it. The IWF says someone reported the Wikipedia page through a form on its Web site. A statement says:

“As with all child sexual abuse reports received by our Hotline analysts, the image was assessed according to the UK Sentencing Guidelines Council (page 109). The content was considered to be a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18, but hosted outside the UK. The IWF does not issue takedown notices to ISPs or hosting companies outside the UK, but we did advise one of our partner Hotlines abroad and our law enforcement partner agency of our assessment. The specific URL (individual webpage) was then added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.”

The vast majority of U.K.-based ISPs use the blacklist maintained by the IWF, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.

The Wikipedia article, fittingly enough, has already been updated with this development. The Wikimedia Foundation also released its own statement about the incident, noting that the IWF blacklisting has also prevented U.K. Internet users from being able to edit any Wikipedia articles.

“It is a huge problem,” the statement says. “There are tens of thousands of people in the UK who regularly edit Wikipedia: roughly one quarter of all edits to the English Wikipedia are made from inside the UK. The Wikimedia Foundation is dependent upon the contributions of volunteer editors in order to fulfill its educational mission. It cannot afford to have UK-based editors excluded from participation in the encyclopedia.”

As to the legality of the image, the Wikimedia Foundation says it has “no reason to believe the image has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world” and points to the fact that the image is also posted on pages within Amazon, where the album is available for purchase.

“We are frankly baffled as to why the IWF would choose to target Wikipedia — an encyclopedia, run by a charitable organization, which has been repeatedly gauged as equivalent in quality to conventional encyclopedias — for censorship. And we are particularly displeased that the IWF chose to censor not solely the image, but also the explanatory article text which described and contextualized the controversy surrounding the image, in a neutral and educational fashion,” the organization says.