Notice to UK internet providers: ban this!

It’s a funny thing about censorship. Ignore something you find distasteful, and the rest of the world probably will too. But turn around and ban something on Wikipedia, and you can be sure the world will sit up and take notice.

So all you idiots at the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation who thought you were doing the world a favour by getting UK internet service providers to block access to a photo that’s been around for 32 years, will you please censor this post? You’ll have to ban access to wordpress.com, too, I suppose, but if that’s what it takes to make sure people can’t make up their minds for themselves what they can or cannot see, then so be it.

Of course, I have to provide something you twits think is worth censoring, so here it is: a link to a photo on an album cover that was released in 1976 and which you saw fit to censor from Wikipedia.

Guys, I hate the exploitation of children as much as any sane individual. I hate the idea there are children out there right now as you read this who are having their photo taken – or much worse – by people who don’t give a shit about them, who see them as a commodity to be exploited until they’re no longer of any use, tossed aside until the next crop comes in.

What the hell, there are plenty of street kids out there, the supply is limitless. Judging by the number of weird searches that for some reason turn up this blog, so is the demand.

And I realise, too, that there are laws against child pornography, its consumption and distribution, two things the Internet renders practically effortless. And that there are even newspapers out there – Europe’s top-selling Bild Zeitung for example – who sometimes don’t really look too closely at the age of the naked girls they stick on their front pages.

I also find the album cover distasteful.

But by choosing to tell 95% of UK internet users they can’t have access to even one page on one of the Internet’s most active websites, you’ve now called much more attention to that photograph than it ever would have received had you just ignored it.

As this article at The Register points out, the page in question is now among the most popular on the English-language version of Wikipedia.

But thanks, anyway. Growing up in a culturally and economically deprived Canadian backwater in the 1970s, I somehow missed out on it the first time around. Then again, I wasn’t a fan of sleazy German heavy metal either, so perhaps I just skipped over them on a rare trip to a Vancouver record store.

In fact, by 1976 the only chance I’d ever had to even glimpse anything close to what’s on that album cover was the time my friend Mark and I snuck under the floorboards of the girls’ changing room at the town swimming pool one summer afternoon to ascertain whether our schoolmate Lisa McC. was growing roots or not.

Oh, and I’m sure the Scorpions thank you too. Though the cover’s been changed, that same album is available at amazon.com on CD. They’ll appreciate the extra royalties.

Update:  The Internet Watch Foundation has now – five days later – decided to lift their ban:

The procedure is now complete and has confirmed that the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.

14 Responses to “Notice to UK internet providers: ban this!”

  1. December 8, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    See, if the child in the pornography is smaller than six inches across, I guess that’s okay then?

  2. December 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Apparently. I first had a link to a forum discussing this very issue, but they’ve changed the picture.


  3. December 8, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Something new to learn every day. I’d never even heard about that cover till this moment and while I certainly find it extremely disturbing, I can’t help but think of one our cherished tenets here in the States – that the only thing worse than censorship is self-imposed censorship. That’s a road to danger and the stifling of free speech.

    I’m very disappointed by the UK’s actions.

    • December 8, 2008 at 10:19 pm

      Hi Ella,
      It’s kind of humbling to realise you’re only discovering now something that’s been tossed around the pop culture landscape for more than three decades. That it took some bone-headed effort to suppress it for it to finally cross our radar makes the whole thing even more ridiculous.

  4. December 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    couldn’t agree more. this reminds me of the recent debacle concerning Australian artist Bill Henson, though his photographs are spectacularly beautiful and I support him wholeheartedly.

    Can’t see artistic merit in this album cover, it seems merely prurient, and I’d certainly never seen or heard of it before. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to decide for myself that it is distasteful

  5. 7 Michele J.
    December 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Reminds me a bit of the Lutz Heilmann/wikipedia debacle. Talk about nach hinten losgehen:

    “Heilmann later made a public apology for his actions against Wikipedia. ‘I didn’t think it through and didn’t anticipate the consequences,’ he admitted.[19] Wikimedia Germany reported that on the Saturday of the blocking it had received record donations of €16,000, compared to €3,000 on an average day.”


  6. December 9, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Since I live a good portion of my life under a rock and only heard of Metallica this year, this was a revelation in several ways.

    On the other hand, the tattle-tale mentality isn’t limited to second graders. The world is full of people ready to point at this or that and say “Ohhhh,look at that awful thing. That’s against the rules”. This has two advantages for the tattler. They can feel superior to who or what offends them AND they have opportunity to take good, long looks at it while they’re reporting it to the authorities. People truly obsessed with getting rid of porn do get to look at a good bit of porn, after all.

    Perhaps the teachers who deal with second-grade tattlers could be sent over to help the Internet Watch Foundation sort out a few things.

  7. December 9, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    You know, I think their efforts are well-intentioned, but misplaced. Instead of running around trying to get every questionable photo regardless of origin taken off the net or blocked, why not re-direct efforts toward shutting down those who produce and profit from it? Easier said than done, of course. The really bad stuff could be coming in from thousands of miles away.

    Added that link to the Wikpedia article to your comment. That’s a really good example I wish I’d thought of.🙂
    Also picked up this little tidbit – someone on that forum referred to it as the Streisand Effect:

  8. December 10, 2008 at 8:38 am

    What a crap album cover. I probably would never have heard of it or seen it if it hadn’t been banned. Guess that kind of backfired for them. Will people never learn?

  9. December 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    I never liked the Scorpions music – they must have been pretty desperate to resort to the cover they used.

    Remember the scene in This is Spinal Tap discussing the album cover of Spinal Tap’s new release:

    Bobbi Flekman: You put a *greased naked woman* on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man’s arm extended out up to here, holding onto the leash, and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive? You don’t find that sexist?
    Ian Faith: This is *1982*, Bobbi, c’mon!
    Bobbi Flekman: That’s *right*, it’s 1982! Get out of the ’60s. We don’t have this mentality anymore.
    Ian Faith: Well, you should have seen the cover they *wanted* to do! It wasn’t a glove, believe me.

    • December 10, 2008 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Indie,
      I haven’t seen Spinal Tap since it came out in theatres so long ago. Great satire, though!

      az – that’s the thing, eh? The Streisand Effect – or the Scientology Cruise video? If the Church of Whackology hadn’t have made such a fuss over that video, nobody would have known about it.

  10. 13 indeterminacy
    June 23, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Better take this down before your blog is banned in Germany.

  11. June 24, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I’m not too worried, Indie. No picture on this blog of underage kids. If I link to one, and they want to nab me for it, it will make for a highly public test case.

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