Wikimedia Foundation applauds IWF decision to reverse Wikipedia censorship in the United Kingdom
Removal from Internet blacklist will also allow UK Wikipedians to resume editing
San Francisco CA, December 9 - Earlier today the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a non-profit agency tasked with preventing access to potentially illegal internet content, reversed its ruling earlier this week that prevented over 95% of UK internet users from accessing an article about an album by a German rock band, The Scorpions. As a result, UK Wikipedia users were unable to access all of the editing functions on Wikipedia. With this decision, the IWF has removed Wikipedia from its internet 'blacklist.'
"We are grateful to the IWF for making this swift decision, and to thousands of internet users from around the world for their outpouring of support," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "Millions of Britons now have access to all of Wikipedia, and volunteers can resume their important editing work. The Wikimedia Foundation greatly admires the work of our volunteers - they care deeply about Wikipedia and are the first responders in dealing with potentially illegal content on Wikipedia." Gardner added that both the Foundation and its community of users "work hard to be responsive and responsible when it comes to legitimate legal concerns."
Mike Godwin, General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation stated: "We recognize the good intentions of Internet watch groups, including their focus on blocking and discouraging illegal content. Nevertheless, this incident underscores the need for transparency and accountability in the processes of the Internet Watch Foundation and similar bodies around the world."
Added Godwin, "In the long run, monitoring groups need to develop a public set of 'best practices.' These best practices should, at a minimum, decrease the impact on content found to be lawful, acknowledge the context in which the content at issue occurs, and be maximally transparent both to service providers and to individual users. There should be no false or misleading error messages when online censorship does occur."
The Wikimedia Foundation had criticized the lack of transparency in the IWF's decision making and appeal process, as well as the suspension of editing functions that resulted following the censorship. UK Wikipedia editors account for over 25% of all editing activity on the English Wikipedia.
The Wikimedia Foundation is open to dialog on these issues with the IWF and other Internet watch groups.
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