Link pile.

Nazi Goatse, part 94.

Wikimedia has set up an investigation into the question of contentious content on the projects. Sexual content, violent content, pictures of Muhammad. The stuff that’s legal, but whose very existence offends people.

My sympathy goes out to the poor sods charged with the study. I’d be hard put to think of a more poisoned chalice. No matter what they come up with, they will be called Nazis and worse. And whatever they come up with will change no minds whatsoever and be hideously distorted — if they said “the best thing for Wikimedia is a goatse at the top of all pages,” someone would say “yes, and this is why anyone advocating images purporting to be Muhammad should be beheaded.”

The meta talk page has already been swooped upon by the usual participants and reduced to somewhat worse than uselessness.

I can reiterate my basic argument, as father of a three-year-old and stepfather of two teenagers.

The Wikimedia communities are sufficiently painstaking in making sure everything is educational and in context that I’d happily let my daughter in front of Wikimedia unrestricted. Anything sexual or horrifying would be informative and in context.

The community works incredibly hard to make the contentious stuff good. Any kid who looks up “fuck” on English Wikipedia will come away considerably educated, for example!

The last shock I got from Wikipedia was when I followed a link on another site to Cock ring, and was confronted with a large, shiny, erect penis. With, of course, a cock ring on it. Not something I’d care to have pop up on the screen at work … on the other hand, I have no reason to be going to an article on cock rings at work. I think the article was entirely reasonable and the use of the picture was entirely reasonable.

Then there is the issue of important photos of war and so on that are absolutely horrifying. They should be in the encyclopedia, even if merely describing some of them makes my stomach do flip-flops.

I think experience shows that the Wikimedia communities take their responsibility to educate seriously enough that “Wikipedia is not censored” is sufficient in practice. I have seen no cases that would lead me to think otherwise.

As noted in the most recent foundation-l reiteration of the Muhammad image discussion, Wikimedia has a firm bias to more information rather than less. It’s right there in the mission statement. Increasing, not decreasing, knowledge is why the community is here at all. If you go against the statement and expectation that more information is better than less information — even if the information is horrible and shocking — the community will not accept it. If the Foundation forces filtering on the community, the community will get up and leave. As Milos Rancic noted, implementing any of the recommendations on that meta talk page will promptly lead to a fork. As it should — insulting your community in such a manner is an excellent way to get rid of them.

Filtering should be left to third parties. The SOS Children Wikipedia for Schools is an excellent example, and it’s quite popular and won’t get a teacher fired. Other than that, I’ve seen no evidence of actual demand for a filtered Wikimedia from end users — only from people who want to filter the projects themselves at the source.

One perennial proposal is for images in given categories to be hidden from view for logged-in users. This is an idea I like, as it puts control in the hands of the viewer rather than third parties. All it requires is someone to code something that passes muster with Tim and Domas as unlikely to melt the servers.

Link pile.