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Wikipedia Censorship The Media

Larry Sanger Tells FBI Wikipedia Distributes "Child Pornography" 572

Taco Cowboy writes with news that Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has reported to the FBI what he says is child pornography on Wikipedia, including links (redacted in the letter just linked) to entries about pedophilia and the genre of manga known as lolicon. The Register has up an article with some analysis, which mentions the opinion of at least one attorney whose "reading of the statute [requiring reporting of child porn images] is that it does apply to the Wikimedia Foundation." Update 20100414 5:00 GMT: Larry Sanger has posted a general reply in response to critics of his report to the FBI, in which he addresses the form, content, and motivation of his complaint, and offers some discussion of the relevant statute.
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Larry Sanger Tells FBI Wikipedia Distributes "Child Pornography"

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  • Just doing his civic duty, yessir.

    • From the article:

      I have also since founded a more responsible project, Citizendium.org, and a teacher-edited non-profit directory of preK-12 educational videos, WatchKnow.org. Given my position of influence on matters related to Wikipedia, though I'm no longer associated with it, I feel I have a moral obligation to make the following report.

      And I have the moral obligation to call you an opportunist, a shill and accuse you of mudraking to further your goals, Mister Sanger.

      IMHO, there are fair use cases, e.g. for educational purposes, for the depiction of under-age sexuality, and if wikipedia doesn't fall under the umbrella of educational websites, I want some suggestions which website does. Hey, here in Germany even our cabinet members can show hard child pornograghic pictures in press conferences.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kestasjk ( 933987 ) *

        I have also since founded a more responsible project, Citizendium.org, and a teacher-edited non-profit directory of preK-12 educational videos, WatchKnow.org. Given my position of influence on matters related to Wikipedia, though I'm no longer associated with it, I feel I have a moral obligation to make the following report.

        What a douchebag.

      • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:48AM (#31806560)

        Hey, here in Germany even our cabinet members can show hard child pornograghic pictures in press conferences.

        "Press conferences"? Is that what they're calling them these days?

    • by msclrhd ( 1211086 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:03AM (#31806348)

      So, is this the new communism? The new witch hunts?

      Sanger: Wikipedia is a distributor of the communist agenda and everyone associated with it is a communist.

    • General reply (Score:4, Informative)

      by Larry Sanger ( 936381 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:08AM (#31813748) Journal

      Larry Sanger here--let me clarify a few things.

      First of all, what very few of the commenters (at least the first commenters) noticed was that the statute I cited, 18 U.S.C. 1466A, has the following title: "Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children." It specifically states: "Any person who, in a circumstance described in subsection (d), knowingly produces, distributes, receives, or possesses with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that..."

      That's drawings, cartoons, sculptures, and paintings. "Visual depictions of any kind." Many people who criticized my message to the FBI really seem to have a problem with the law, which I find interesting.

      Anyway, I now realize with regret that "child pornography" was probably the wrong word to use. I didn't realize that it would be so misleading. I thought that "obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children" (the title of the statute) was just what we mean when we say "child pornography." It didn't occur to me until afterward that many people restrict "child pornography" to mean photographs of real children. If I had realized this sooner, I would have used "depictions of child sexual abuse" instead.

      So, why did I report Wikimedia to the FBI? First some background. I am broadly a libertarian, but I am also a sincere moralist (as opposed to a cynical amoralist). Libertarianism and moralism are not--of course--contradictory. Being a libertarian, I think we have the right to do a lot of things, including a lot of things that broadly coarsen society; that's the price we pay for freedom. But, just as the law provides for, I do draw one line when it comes to photographs, or even merely realistic depictions, of child sexual abuse. Most sane libertarians recognize that some speech should be restricted by the force of law--the hackneyed examples are shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, perjury, and libel. But for me, depictions of child sexual abuse are another. I respect the opinion of those who have a principled disagreement with me when it comes to depictions of child sexual abuse. But pretending that it's just obvious, even for libertarians, that we have a right to publish such depictions is simply wrong, in my opinion.

      Regarding my motives, yes, I thought I was doing my civic duty, one that I didn't really want to do, but which I felt I ought to do. Partly this was because the statute in question required me to make the report if I thought the statute applied (and it seems to me it does--those drawings sure look like obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children to me). But partly also it was because I think that this sort of thing--including some pictures of children being out-and-out raped--is completely wrong, and should not be allowed in a civilized society. Call this censorship if you like, but I don't really think you have a constitutional right to publish and consume realistic drawings of child rape and molestation.

      But what outcome am I aiming at? Contrary to the insinuations of some, I have no interest in trying to get Wikimedia shut down; that would be unnecessary, and I doubt it would happen as a result of the violation of the statute. But I think and hope it may cause pressure on Wikimedia from law enforcement, politicians, and the general public to eliminate this sort of content. I also hope that Wikimedia will be persuaded, or if necessary forced, to label its "adult" content as such in a consistent and reliable way, so that it can be easily filtered by school system filters. This would be a win-win, because then Wikipedia would be used in more schools--something I don't at all oppose, except for all the grossly inappropriate material for school children--and, when used in schools, children would be less likely to find content that their parents and teachers regard as grossly inappropriate for their age.

      I know that in our cynical world, a lot of people will have trouble believing t

  • Categories (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gudeldar ( 705128 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:17AM (#31806118)
    Good thing the links are redacted! Its not like anyone with a brain could go to http://commons.wikimedia.org/ [wikimedia.org] and search for "pedophilia" or "lolicon" and find exactly what he was talking about. Nothing in those categories looks like child porn to me, I'm not afraid to post the links. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Pedophilia [wikimedia.org] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lolicon [wikimedia.org]
    • Re:Categories (Score:4, Informative)

      by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:20AM (#31806138)

      It depends on your definition of child porn I guess, but the picture of a girl sucking someones dick sure does look like child porn to me. Or didn't you know that cartoons are banned as well? It's not about the children, it's about enforcing societies moral standards.

      • Re:Categories (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Gudeldar ( 705128 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:25AM (#31806162)
        If the category hadn't been "pedophilia" would you still have assumed it was child pornography? The girl appears to me to be at least a teenager, but beyond that she could be 14 or 20 (or younger or older). Is it child pornography if the artist conceived of her as 13 or if I did? At what point does child pornography become a thought crime?
        • Re:Categories (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:00AM (#31806334)

          If the category hadn't been "pedophilia" would you still have assumed it was child pornography? The girl appears to me to be at least a teenager, but beyond that she could be 14 or 20 (or younger or older). Is it child pornography if the artist conceived of her as 13 or if I did? At what point does child pornography become a thought crime?

          In Germany we recently got an "appearance pornography" law that says, if the depicted woman LOOKS younger than 18, it's illegal.

          Hilarious what those moral morons come up with.

        • Re:Categories (Score:4, Insightful)

          by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:12AM (#31806644)

          At what point does child pornography become a thought crime?

          The moment you are against whatever you elected government says.

        • Re:Categories (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:18AM (#31806668) Journal

          At what point does child pornography become a thought crime?

          When we began apply it to cartoons instead of live "models" it became a thought crime.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by billius ( 1188143 )

          At what point does child pornography become a thought crime?

          If I recall correctly, it's never a thought crime. Child pornography (that is, pictures of actual children engaging in sexual acts) is illegal not because the content is objectionable, but rather because its very existence requires a crime to be committed. New York v. Feber [wikipedia.org] concluded that the distribution of visual depictions of children engaged in sexual activity is intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children and that since the governm

      • by makomk ( 752139 )

        Child porn laws that cover cartoons have repeatedly been found to violate the First Amendment. Yes, really - look it up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Imrik ( 148191 )

          Maybe true, but that won't stop people from being prosecuted under them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          And of the course the entire world uses the US system of justice.

          Wish we did actually. Here in Scotland, any picture which depicts an act in which a child is sexually active, or is witnessing sexual acts or involved in any way, can be deemed child pornography.

          Only in the UK would a stick drawing of lisa simpson watching marge fuck homer land you in jail!

      • Re:Categories (Score:5, Insightful)

        by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:47AM (#31806254)

        it's about enforcing societies moral standards

        And why should it be the government responsibility to dictate morals? They should just provide a practical framework to make life in a community work.

        • Re:Categories (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:26AM (#31806472) Homepage

          The great thing about (moral) standards is that there are so many to choose from.

          • Re:Categories (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:37AM (#31807412) Homepage

            Yes, but just try to apply the moral standards of say Germany or Holland over here in North America. They seem to be much better adjusted about human sexuality over in Europe. In North America (Canada/US) we are positively out to lunch about sexuality, and completely accepting of violence.
            Its okay for a child to watch someone get murdered on TV, but considered completely unacceptable if they should see a naked breast - let alone a naked human body.
            I recall a woman in a local coffee shop, unobtrusively deciding to breastfeed her baby - and some American tourists got up and complained to the management - even though she was not in their view unless they strained to look. I was shocked anyone would object to breastfeeding, not that she was doing it (what could be more natural?).
            I think our whole western culture has gotten so grossly twisted up over issues of sexuality that it gives rise to a lot of our problems. Granted there has to be some limits - Pedophilia is a great example, completely unacceptable - but we seem intent on enforcing limits that are very very extreme in a lot of cases, and yet, as I said above, we gloss over violence in film and television and accept it as perfectly natural and acceptable.
            Christianity is at the heart of the matter in my opinion. Our currently accepted moral standards are based on a religion that most of us ostensibly Christian people pay no heed to.

          • Re:Categories (Score:5, Interesting)

            by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @11:51AM (#31808346)

            The great thing about (moral) standards is that there are so many to choose from.

            ... but only MY religion/race/communities moral righteousness are the divine/correct ones. And since we have the reins of power, thou shalt yield to our moral will come law of the land. /sarcasm. As the thorough research of Bob Altemeyer discovered:

            What makes authoritarian followers? Altemeyer suggests that the “social learning model of aggression” explains authoritarian aggression in high RWAs. The model is basically fear plus a trigger, in this case self-righteousness.

            Thus in the experiments done on this subject, if you know how highly people scored on the Dangerous World scale, and if you know how self-righteous they are,you can explain rather well the homophobia of authoritarian followers, their heavy-handedness in sentencing criminals, their prejudices against racial and ethnic minorities, why they are so mean-spirited toward those who have erred and suffered, and their readiness to join posses to ride down Communists, radicals, or whomever. (p. 57)

            He also offers a personal-development model of overall high-RWA characteristics. “I have discovered in my investigations that, by and large, high RWA students had simply missed many of the experiences that might have lowered their authoritarianism” (p. 61). Altemeyer doesn’t rule out a genetic component to being a high RWA, but he suggests that life experiences that reinforce the correctness of authority and offer few chances to question received truth are responsible for the development of high RWA characteristics.

            Some characteristics of high RWAs. Altemeyer has found that people who score high on the RWA scale tend to also have the following characteristics:

            1. Illogical Thinking
            2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds
            3. Double Standards
            4. Hypocrisy
            5. Blindness to Themselves
            6. A Profound Ethnocentrism (“Authoritarian followers are highly suspicious of their many out-groups; but they are credulous to the point of self-delusion when it comes to their in-groups.” p. 90)
            7. Dogmatism: The Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense

            Right-wing authoritarianism and religion.

            The first thing you need to know about religious fundamentalists, in case you haven’t inferred it already, is that they usually score very highly on the RWA scale. A solid majority of them are authoritarian followers. (p.111)

            Altemeyer sees religious fundamentalism as “a template for prejudice,” and not surprisingly, fundamentalists exhibit the same kinds of cognitive and ethical problems as high RWAs — a disregard of standards of reasoning and evidence, mental compartmentalization, hypocrisy, dogmatism, etc. This chapter is where the careful groundwork of earlier chapters really pays off — Altemeyer makes a convincing case that religious fundamentalism feeds its followers right-wing authoritarian attitudes.

        • Re:Categories (Score:5, Interesting)

          by smchris ( 464899 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:00AM (#31806852)

          We're _decades_ into thought crime within current generations:

          1) Started with narcs looking for dealers.
          2) If it was good hunting dealers, wasn't it good hunting users?
          3) If undercover worked so well for drugs, why not expand it to other areas like burglary and car theft rings?

          I wonder whether it was prostitution where the line was first crossed into temptation:

          4) Why should we spend time busting prostitutes when we can pose as prostitutes and bust clients?
          5) Why not set up our own fencing operations to catch burglars?
          6) Why not set up our own kiddie porn sites? We can offer genuine confiscated kiddie porn either as downloads or send them by post for extra client criminality.
          7) But that's so passive. Why not pose _as_ kids and troll for child molesters?

          I'm sure in all these cases officers can come up with examples of "good work" where they imprisoned repeat offenders. But from a sociological viewpoint, America has become a very strange place where it is the government's job to entice "those so inclined" into crime. Do we have any idea of the cultural fallout from this shift and can it casually be assumed to be all good?


      • by hldn ( 1085833 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:04AM (#31806358) Homepage

        ( . )( . )

        these ascii boobs belong to a 14 year old ascii girl. i'm serious.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:17AM (#31806120)
    I just spotted a case of sour grapes on Larry's website.
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:29AM (#31806182)

    Yes, Wikipedia seems to indeed have a category for pedophilia-related articles, describing such things as the Catholic scandal, child grooming, various kidnapping cases and related stuff. I'm a bit unsure what makes this "child pornography" - does Mr. Sanger perhaps become turned on reading about the activities of less savory Catholic priests? Dunno what images he's referring to, either - the only ones I found were photographs of Greek vases. As for "lolicon", AFAIK it's legal in most countries due to it being cartoon not related to real people in any way.

    Perhaps this case itself should be reported under pedophile hysteria [telegraph.co.uk], or, more cynically, barratry [wikipedia.org].

    • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:28AM (#31806488)

      Several Americans have in fact been jailed for possessing lolicon. The judge deemed lolicon manga just as harmful as the real thing.

  • Alternate statement (Score:5, Informative)

    by Protoslo ( 752870 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:30AM (#31806190)
    For reasons totally unrelated to the (unsubstantiated) rumors that I am deeply bitter that no one has even heard of my self-evidently superior encyclopedia, Citizendium [citizendium.org], I have discovered that it is my solemn duty under Federal law to attempt to have Wikipedia's servers seized by the FBI, thus inevitably thrusting the 121 properly expert-approved articles of Citizendium back into the spotlight where they bel--ah--I mean, thus saving...the children...from Jimbo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:34AM (#31806198)

    First of all, it doesn't inspire any level of confidence or conviction when the first paragraph of a letter, presumably about bad bad child porn on Wikipedia, is prefaced with what reads like the preamble on a CV. Citizendiwhat? Sorry you ditched on WP and failed to replicate its success, but trying to get the website shut down by pandering to think-of-the-children reactionaries is hardly an act of good faith or legitimate citizen concern. Sanger, how come you know so much about the pedophilia content at Wikimedia anyway?

    Secondly, if one does visit the categories of which Sanger speaks, (not hard to figure out btw, in spite of link removals) all you see are A) historic pornographic cartoons, and B) Japanese pornographic cartoons. Even if one were to take the charges of child porn seriously, they are strictly limited to works of art, as in, not real people. I suggest that federal law enforcement should find much more pressing cases to deal with. If they have the time to perform an investigation over cartoon tits, they are overbudgeted.

  • What happened... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lattyware ( 934246 ) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:38AM (#31806216) Homepage Journal
    What happened when a drawing is being called child porn? Did any child get hurt? No. It may not be to my personal taste, but if noone is getting hurt, then why the hell is it being intefered with?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mayberry42 ( 1604077 )

      It may not be to my personal taste, but if noone is getting hurt, then why the hell is it being intefered with?

      So those in power can force upon you their own moral beliefs of what is right and wrong regardless of your own opinion. Same as any other victimless crime.

  • Look at that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerrei ( 1515395 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:54AM (#31806296)
    Larry mentions his own, new, quote "more responsible" encyclopedia project in the first paragraph. How convenient.
  • by kainosnous ( 1753770 ) <slashdot@anewmind.me> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:55AM (#31806304)

    This is an example of what I believe is wrong with government censorship. I don't know how people get the idea that the web should be a safe place where you can click on any link and go to any site and never have the chance to be offended. The internet and the web, IMHO, should be a place where all information can be exchanged freely between all parties. There are plenty of things on the internet that I find quite disturbing. If you don't want to be offended, don't go there. If you don't trust the sites, don't click on the link. Wikipedia is no exception. I personally don't find it acceptable for children to browse unsupervised, but it isn't mine or the government's decision to make. On the other hand, don't be surprised if the government uses that free information to track down people who commit crimes.

    The big problem that I have here is that we are using the government to legislate morality. Not only is that not their job, but they are really bad at it even if it were. So, unless we are willing to stone people for adultery we should let them make their own moral choices.

    Just to clarify, I'm in no way in favor of allowing people to harm children. In those cases where actual children are hurt I have no problem hunting down those people. I just don't want to see a service shut down because somebody didn't like a drawing they had.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by muridae ( 966931 )

      You have to remember, the tricky thing about morals is that 'mine are always right'. Almost every sociology 101 course has to devote a huge amount of time just getting people to admit their own ethnocentrism, much less acknowledge that other people have values that are right for their culture. However, it is the government's job to legislate, if not morality, socially agreed norms. One could even say that legislation against murder is a moral legislation, if someone wanted to carry the argument that far. An

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HungryHobo ( 1314109 )

        The madness with legislating morality goes far deeper than that.

        I've talked to people who honestly believe that it's right that teenage girls should be arrested, sent to prison and put on the sex offenders register for life because they took photos of themselves with their phone cameras.
        The reason: "What if a pedophile got hold of the images..." "...internet..." "...pedophiles..." "zzzt zt" *brain shorts out*
        They honestly believe the possibility of a pedo getting hold of a phone cam picture of you is more h

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        Making murder illegal because it is theft of someone's property (their life) is different from because it is "immoral". Discuss.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger ( 8636 )

      I don't know how people get the idea that the web should be a safe place where you can click on any link and go to any site and never have the chance to be offended.

      ...which is, in the end, why things like the proposed .xxx TLD are fundamentally flawed. What the censors consider objectionable is a constantly moving target: once they've successfully banned or contained x, then they'll go after x-1. A better alternative would be a .beige TLD, where the censors can put content they consider acceptable, and people who don't care for freedom of speech can limit their browsers to that domain.

      And to take this post squarely back on topic, yes, Larry Sanger is a vindictive litt

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joe_frisch ( 1366229 )

      There are 2 different issues here. One is whether the government's definition of child porn makes sense. Personally I think that including drawings makes it unreasonable. The second is whether the wikipedia images meet the government's definition - I think they probably do.

      The way to change the first problem is through political action / voting. If you think it is unreasonable to send someone to prison for looking at a DRAWING of a naked child, write your congress person.

      The second is a different issue. On

  • by Posting=!Working ( 197779 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:58AM (#31806596)

    As ValleyWag put it (as quoted by Mashable): ...they could pass the time reading a 2000 work by Möller. Its German title is "Kinder sind Pornos," which means "Children are pornography." Even in Google's rough translation, the gist [of the paper, not of the title] is clear enough: Möller argues that nonviolent child pornography does no harm. He relates the frosty reception he received when he put forth this view at a conference in Nuremberg in 2000.

    Since Mashable quoted Valleywag who gave us the gist of a machine generated translation of a 10 year old article originally in German, it's completely obvious. Especially when the translation is so clear:

    It is in the rest of the Judgement quoted abuse therapist without recognizable to its methodology would be a critical distance.

    Just try to argue with that. You can't. Or this one:

    "The opinion that children have sexuality and can enjoy this too, should / should not be distributed," says Schweer further.
    That this is not an opinion, but a scientific fact that is not doubted by many self-proclaimed protectors children, he is silent.

    The monster. He should/should not be in prison for quoting that.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:18AM (#31806664) Homepage

    He's been trying to get his pet project going for years, and people demonstrated repeatedly that nobody really cares about his vision.

    Nupedia went nowhere and died after having produced 24 approved articles after 3 years. Then in 2006 he started Citizendium with great fanfare, and in those 4 years it managed to produce 121 approved articles.

    So it seems that if he can't compete, he'll try killing Wikipedia the legal way. Maybe then some of the contributors will switch to Citizendium. On my part, I don't see how would that work for him, because I'd just really hate his guts and never touch anything related to him after that.

    You should be ashamed, mr. Sanger.

  • Time and Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:26AM (#31807360)

    There they go again with another waste of tax dollars. These must be the same people who want Big Bird to wear pants on Sesame Street.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus