16 December 2008

IWF and Wikipedia

Having read about the Internet Watch Foundation putting a Wikipedia page on its blacklist while I was traveling, I was intending to post a fairly lengthy article on the subject when I got back. However, I think Cory Doctorow has covered most of the issues in pretty good detail in the Guardian.

If the IWF is blacklisting images of children which it considers to be titillating, rather than sticking to blocking images of actual abuse, it's operating in an area which is driven much more by opinion than fact and that requires much more scope for challenge.

I oppose to the idea of the government censoring the internet, either directly or by applying pressure on ISPs; it's too prone to abuse and corruption, however noble the intention may be. The government should stick to creating laws outlining what is illegal to distribute and then leave it to the courts to prosecute those who transgress.

On the other hand, if an ISP wants to offer an internet connection with certain sites blocked, I'm relatively comfortable with that as part of an open market, so long as the ISP makes it clear what criteria it uses to carry out blocking, it informs the operator of the site (when practical) that it is being blocked, it displays a notice saying that the site has been blocked when somebody tries to access it (not a dishonest 404 message which gives the impression that there is an error at the website's end) and it has an open procedure for challenging its decisions. If an ISP chooses to outsource its blocking decisions to a third party, such as the IWF, they should be obliged to ensure that the third party has procedures which are equivalent to those which would be required of the ISP.

1 comment:

Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.