UK Blocks Access to Wikipedia Entry on Controversial Scorpions Album

On Monday, December 8, it was reported that a number of UK Internet service providers have decided to block access to a controversial Wikipedia entry showing an image of a naked girl. The ISPs acted after online watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation warned them that the image might be illegal.

The entry in question is that of German heavy metal band Scorpion's 1976 album, "Virgin Killer." The cover art of the album depicts a prepubescent girl in a provocative pose, with an image of broken glass superimposed over her genitals (the album cover can easily be found by searching in Google Images).

This isn't the first time "Virgin Killer" has come under fire. The original cover art was banned in the United States and replaced with the above image of the band. Earlier this year the same Wikipedia page was reported to have been investigated by the FBI by WorldNetDaily, a conservative U.S. news site.

While the image most certainly does depict an underage nude girl and is a potential violation of child pornography laws, there are two major questions that need be answered: 1) What is the purpose of the Wikipedia entry? and 2) Could this have been handled differently?

As for the first question, the Wikipedia entry is not meant to be provocative; in fact, the text primarily details the controversy surrounding the album and its cover and the problems that it has caused the band. The entry is, on the whole, an historical record of the album and the controversy which has dogged it for the past 32 years.

And as for the second question, I believe that yes, it could have. An unfortunate effect of the UK block is that a number of Wikipedia editors based in the UK have been unable to access the editors' pages of the site. As the photograph itself has its own URL, there seems to be no reason for the entire entry on "Virgin Killer" to have been blocked; rather, if the offending photo is indeed in violation of child pornography laws, only the photo URL itself need be blocked, or better yet, taken down by court order.

It appears that the Internet Watch Foundation itself is reconsidering its choice. According to The Guardian, the ban is being reconsidered under the IWF's appeals and corrections procedures.

If the ban is upheld, it could have serious repercussions for other web sites which host the album cover.