By Perry Chiaramonte
Published June 05, 2012
Wikipedia Co-Founder Larry Sanger has launched a campaign against the online encyclopedia for content filters to be put in place.
June 29, 2007: Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, answers a question during an interview in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Children using Wikipedia for research can still stumble on the vast repository of pornographic images and videos that are the encyclopedia’s most popular items, warns site co-founder Larry Sanger.
“I think it’s a serious problem and so few people realize it’s there,” Sanger, one of the original founders, told FoxNews.com.
Despite a series of FoxNews.com exposes two years ago that brought the issue to the public’s attention, and a year-old resolution to institute pornography filters, there’s no end in sight to the problem, Sanger said. “I find it disturbing. I wouldn’t be speaking out if I had nothing to do with Wikipedia.”
Finding explicit imagery can be as easy as typing an unrelated search term; results go well beyond line art and diagrams — there are pictures and videos depicting human genitalia and individual acts of masturbation among countless other sexual scenes.
Indeed, nearly all of the most frequently viewed media files on Wikimedia servers are sexually explicit files, Sanger pointed out.
‘This is content that 99.9 percent of society would not want their child to have access to in a school or library.’
– New York-based Internet lawyer Jason Stern
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of directors answered the public outcry exactly one year ago, voting on and passing a resolution to put in place a filter to weed out any and all controversial content.
“This is not just content that a prudish parent might find objectionable,” said Jason Stern, a New York-based Internet lawyer who handles criminal and civil rights cases. “This is content that 99.9 percent of society would not want their child to have access to in a school or library.”
In the resolution, the board maintained that “Wikimedia projects are not censored,” and stated that they “recognize that we serve a global and diverse (in age, background and values) audience, and we support access to information for all.”
The board also stated that they supported a “principle of least astonishment,” where content is provided to the user, “in such a way as to respect their expectations of what any page or feature might contain.”
The board vowed at the time to create a mechanism to easily block specific photos on a page, while urging content authors to use caution when posting certain material.
Two years after a FoxNews.com expose highlighted the disturbing problem of pornography on the online encyclopedia, the site is no closer to resolving the issue.
April 27, 2010: Co-founder Larry Sanger says the parent company of Wikipedia is knowingly distributing child porn — and implores the FBI to investigate.
May 10, 2010: Wikimedia Foundation begins purging explicit images as it prepares a new policy regarding sexual content.
May 14, 2010: A shakeup begins at the top levels of Wikipedia as administrators try to deal with the growing controversy.
June 25, 2010: A loose worldwide network of pedophiles campaigning to spin the popular online encyclopedia in their favor is uncovered.
Feb. 24, 2012: Two years later, Wikimedia Commons is still littered with graphic pornography.
But after a year, the filter is not in place — and in Sanger’s opinion, Wikipedia has a real porn problem with no progress being made to enact the resolution.
“I think it’s clear why there’s a hold up,” Sanger told FoxNews.com. “There’s a culture on Wikipedia that people are unaware of. It’s dominated by young men in Western cultures and there’s a certain political outlook that goes with it … Libertarian and even anarchist views where they feel nothing should be censored.”
“I believe in their heart of hearts [Wikipedia] wants to make good on their resolution, but the rank and file shout down upon those they disagree with.”
In a written statement to FoxNews.com, Jay Walsh, spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation that runs Wikipedia, said, “the features have not yet been developed and implemented. Conversations and collaborations with the Wikimedia community on the topic of controversial content continue.”
“Wikipedia is a very big project space, and it contains the information and media belonging to multitudes — people of every nationality, every political persuasion, every field of interest. We aspire to make decisions by consensus. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is a tough issue for us to resolve.”
“We want to get it right, and getting it right takes time,” Walsh said.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales recently answered the comments from Sanger and others on his Twitter account, saying that the board is still working toward developing and putting a filter in place.
“@lsanger Yes, I continue to strongly support the development of a thoughtful feature both publicly and privately,” Wales wrote on June 2.
Stern added that about half of all states in the country have some type of law in place that requires filtering software or other standards to be established for all public institutions with Internet access.
“Wikipedia has a moral obligation to either filter their own content, similar to YouTube’s review of pornographic video uploads, or establish through filtering software a way to prevent children from being able to view pornographic images and videos in schools and libraries,” Stern said.
Sanger agrees, adding that the world’s leading reference site should make it easier for parents to have the proper tools to monitor the content that their child is looking for and that it’s the proper thing for Wikipedia to do.
“It’s generally a socially conscious thing to do. Google, YouTube, Flickr. They all have some sort of monitoring or filtering in place. Why can’t Wikipedia?”