Wikipedia ignoring rampant porn problem

Fox News reports that online powerhouse, Wikipedia, is not expressing interest in filtering software that would enable the site to block pornographic images. NetSpark, an Israeli company that specializes in filtering technology, has contacted Wikipedia several times to offer them their “smart” software at a heavy discount, perhaps even free, but parent company Wikimedia has thus far not responded. Marketing Manager for NetSpark, Sarah Minchom, says: “It seems like it’s not a priority for them at this point.”

What is most frustrating about Wikipedia’s ignoring of NetSpark’s offer is that Wikipedia founders Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales are both on record claiming that filtering technology is necessary on the site in order to block “not safe for work” images (not to mention the “not safe for children” aspect). Sanger left Wikipedia in 2002, but agrees that Wales should be working with NetSpark. What is particularly intriguing about Wales’ and Wikimedia’s non-action on filtering is that pornographic images are far and away the most viewed content.

By dragging their feet on free or nearly free software that could serve to protect unsuspecting eyes from obscene images, Wikimedia is proving that they value traffic over safety. While many viewers of these images may be clicking on them accidentally, a larger proportion of them are not. Wikimedia knows just how much traffic is being driven to their site by these images and they appear to be unwilling to cut this traffic off for the sake of protecting the unwary. Wikipedia relies on its traffic numbers to keep it in the top visited websites on the internet, but it also uses its high traffic statistics to raise money in donations. Higher traffic means higher donations, which means Wikipedia is able to invest more money in making the site even more powerful and more inclusive. Cutting off a large percentage of its traffic means cutting off a large percentage of its funding—and this is something that Wikipedia appears to be unwilling to consider.

Last year, Wikimedia released a statement on “controversial content,” which claimed that they support “user choice” as well as “least astonishment.” This is where the real rub comes in. Wikimedia claims to believe in the First Amendment, even to the point of making pornographic images available, yet they also say they want to limit “surprise content” that users aren’t specifically seeking. Wikimedia is finding that saying and carrying out these two principles are two entirely different things. Wikimedia believes that free speech and free expression can only be “free” if they are not subject to a litany of restrictions, yet freedom from this content is also something that needs to be addressed. They can’t have their porn and not have their porn. As for now, it appears that having the porn is more important to Wikimedia’s definition of free speech than not having it.