British ISPs restrict access to Wikimedia sites

Wikipedia has reported that at least six Internet Service Providers in the United Kingdom have restricted, and in some cases blocked access to Wikimedia sites, as well as "up to 1200 other websites". The restrictions have been implemented due to pages with images of what some have called child pornography.

The page believed to be the main cause behind this is a Wikipedia entry on The Scorpions (a German heavy-metal band) album cover for their album titled 'Virgin Killer', which according to Wikipedia, "displays an underage girl, posing nude, with a lens crack crossing over her genitals, but nothing blocking out her breasts". Whilst the image can be found all across the Internet, including many music stores, ISPs in Britain have responded to the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) list of websites "that host or contain content that have been reported to contain inappropriate images of naked children".

The following ISPs have been reported to have made restrictions:

  • O2/Be Unlimited
  • Virgin Media
  • Easynet
  • Plusnet
  • Demon
  • TalkTalk
Not all ISPs have applied the same restrictions; some have only blocked the pages in question (by redirecting or just displaying a message stating why the page is unavailable), others have blocked Wikipedia entirely. Although there is no information about this on the IWF website, Wikipedia reports that many other websites with similar content have had restrictions applied.

This latest move to counter child pornography will likely upset customers of the stricter ISPs who completely filtered Wikipedia and other websites, as well as raise concerns about Internet freedom. Some have argued that they should be entitled to browse whatever they wish, as they pay for their connection, whilst others have blamed Wikipedia for displaying the images in the first place. Either way, the latest movement will undoubtedly raise some questions about who has control, and just how Internet censorship should be used, if at all.

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