The Dispute over Filtering “indecent” Images in Wikipedia

Thomas Roessing

Abstract

In 2010, Wikipedia was accused by individuals as well as some media organizations of hosting illegal and indecent images. The foundation that runs Wikipedia commissioned a report on contentious images and the development of an image filter. This opt-in filter was designed to enable individual-level filtering of images with sexual, violent, sacred, or otherwise contentious images. The plans were considered a first step to censorship by many users and sparked considerable protest in Wikipedia’s online community. In-depth analysis reveals that concepts from communication research, such as the Third-Person Effect and Public Opinion, can be applied to the issue. Results of an experiment on the effects of disgusting medical images are discussed.

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