Sexually graphic images on Wikipedia stir debates

The collaborative encyclopaedia project is drawing the ire of childrens' groups and its own more conservative users over policies which allow sexually explicit images to accompany some articles.

Wikipedia has come under fire from some child protection groups over the inclusion of graphic sexual images in some entries.

Childwise head Bernadette McMenamin told News Limited that some of the images easily accessible via the site crossed the line to what is deemed sexually explicit.

The page on 'hardcore pornography', for instance, includes two stills from behind the scenes at a pornographic movie set, including one featuring explicit sex.

The 'vagina' page contains a close-up of a woman's vulva, the 'ejaculation' page contains both a photo-sequence and a video of ejaculation, and the 'masturbation' page features pictures of a female and male, both pleasuring themselves.

The use of these graphic images is hotly contested, even within the site itself – often major debates turn up on these entries' talk pages. But Wikipedia operates on consensus, and the decision is usually made to keep the image.

Wikipedia has a strict anti-censorship policy – the phrase 'Wikipedia is not censored' is included in what is essentially the group's mission statement.

As is the warning that "Wikipedia cannot guarantee that articles or images will always be acceptable to all readers, or that they will adhere to general social or religious norms."

The site also has a policy of not displaying objectional content warnings at the top of each page, although there is a generic disclaimer available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Content_disclaimer

And according to Wikipedia, the consensus-editing method tends to weed out obviously inappropriate and illegal content.

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Dylan Bushell-Embling

Computerworld
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