A decade ago, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, made an appalling revelation about the online encyclopaedia’s foray into child pornography.
Sanger, who had quit Wikipedia in 2002, said in an interview eight years later, in 2010, that Wikimedia Commons was replete with videos of underage minors performing sexual acts. Wikimedia Commons is the media library of Wikimedia foundations, which hosts images, video, sound and such media files used in various Wiki products, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikiquote.
Sanger had sent a letter to the FBI, the United States’ premier investigative agency, requesting them to probe into the organisation’s violation of federal obscenity laws. He highlighted two Wikimedia Commons categories that he believed had breached the country’s obscenity laws.
Wikipedia violated on two categories of the US obscenity laws: Larry Sanger
One of the two categories he pointed out was “Pedophilia” and it had detailed illustrations of children indulging in sexual acts. Sanger asserted that the category was created almost three years ago, around 2007.
The second category was titled “Lolicon”, which consisted of similar renderings, but in cartoon forms. One of the shockingly bad cartoons depicted a young child performing oral sex on a substantially older man.
What shocked Sanger was no that such content was available online but that Wikimedia Foundation site appeared to be its reference site.
Sanger had begun looking for explicit content online after a discussion with educators who had no idea that Wikipedia hosts content that might be inappropriate for students.
Sanger’s vigorous search led him to graphic images of children and he then read the obscenity law of the United States which said that a person who watches obscene pictures of child abuse is as culpable as the person distributing it.
“I read, ‘You must report this to the FBI or else you are prosecutable under the same statute’,” Sanger had said then.
Regarding the inclusion of pornographic content on Wikipedia, Sanger had said, “I don’t think Wikimedia should be censored. If they have decided to include pornography, then that ought to be their legal right. But I think the public ought to know that there’s a lot of that there.”
Another founder had fought against pornography on Wikipedia
Larry Sanger is not the lone co-founder of Wikipedia to oppose pornographic images on Wikipedia. In 2010, Co-founder Jimmy Wales had given up some of his editorial privileges following heated debates over the matter. Wales had to face opposition for a large number of Wikipedia editors who had alleged that he had deleted hundreds of sexually explicit images without consultation. Following the controversy, Jimmy Wales had given up his privileges to delete files, remove administrators, assign projects or edit any content on Wikipedia.
Before that, Wales had called for the removal of pornographic content from Wikimedia Commons. He had advocated the removal of “images that are of little or no educational value but which appeal solely to prurient interests”,
Larry accuses Wikipedia of no longer adhering to the principle of providing information from a neutral point of view
Following the explosive allegations levelled by Sanger and his request for the FBI to launch an investigation into the paedophilic content hosted by Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation released a statement claiming that they had not been approached by the federal investigation agency. It also assured that its community of volunteer editors take action to edit out illegal material when it is brought to their attention. However, many have contested this claim, saying that the organisation has not been honest with its users about the content that goes on its website.
Earlier, the co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, who is no longer involved with Wikipedia, had gone on the record to talk about the bias of the online encyclopaedia. Sanger had written that it has long forgotten its original policy of aiming to present information from a neutral point of view, and nowadays the crowd-sourced online encyclopedia “can be counted on” to cover politics with a “liberal point of view”.