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Why is Wikipedia still doling out porn?

  • Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia

    June 29, 2007: Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, answers a question during an interview in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  • Wikipedia Logo

     (Wikipedia)

A FoxNews.com investigation into allegations of child pornography on online encyclopedia Wikipedia -- allegations that came from co-founder Larry Sanger himself -- led to a nationwide scandal, massive sitewide pornography purges and pledges to “do better.”

But nearly two years later, Wikimedia Commons -- the image repository for Wikipedia that’s accessed daily by millions of kids for school research -- is still littered with graphic pornography. The Wikimedia site lacks any restrictions or filters, meaning explicit images pop unexpectedly into results when you search for words like “bleach” or “coddle” or phrases like “how it feels.”

Search for the word “underwater” and you’ll see a woman tied up, naked, and submerged face down in a bathtub.

SUMMARY

April 27, 2010: Co-founder Larry Sanger says the parent company of Wikipedia is knowingly distributing child porn -- and implores the FBI to investigate.

May 10, 2010: Wikimedia Foundation begins purging explicit images as it prepares a new policy regarding sexual content. 

May 14, 2010: A shakeup begins at the top levels of Wikipedia as administrators try to deal with the growing controversy. 

June 25, 2010: A loose worldwide network of pedophiles campaigning to spin the popular online encyclopedia in their favor is uncovered.

Full coverage

FoxNews.com first reported on the problem in April of 2010, prompting donors to the Wikipedia Foundation, such as Microsoft and Google, to get involved. Since then, a board shakeup changed leadership, but Wikipedia has mostly debated internally how to handle the problem.

“Discussions have been under way for quite some time about how controversial content should be labeled or categorized,” Jay Walsh, a Wikipedia spokesperson, told FoxNews.com.

Recently, the news link site Reddit.com caved to pressure and removed an entire area dedicated to child pornography. But the explicit content remains at Wikimedia.

“The situation you reported on … is far from over. I'll dare say that it is getting worse by the day,” said disgusted FoxNews.com reader Virgilio A. P. Machado, associate professor of industrial engineering at the School of Sciences and Engineering at the University of Portugal. “Right now, Wikimedia Foundation projects like Wikipedia should be on the ‘blocked for children’ list in every household and school.”

Explicit images are far less common on Wikipedia itself, although kids can still look up pictures of adults in sexual positions, learn about sex acts and view pictures of adult genitalia. There are images of fully nude men and women shown at the site, and cartoon illustrations showing sex acts.

Dr. Marcella Wilson, a computer consultant, explained to FoxNews.com that the explicit content exists on Wikipedia because it is an open forum with user-generated content. She says legal pressure may be the only way to protect kids, since Wikipedia is funded by user and corporate donations.

Wikipedia should be on the ‘blocked for children’ list in every household and school.

- FoxNews.com reader Virgilio A. P. Machado

Wikipedia argues that parents and guardians should monitor at all times what kids can view online, and Walsh says guardians should be the ones to restrict access. When asked whether the appearance of explicit pictures following random searches is an error, Walsh said it was not a problem.

“These articles contain referenced and documented information about a known topic. These topics may not be of interest or appealing to all people,” he argued in an e-mail.

But even those who produce pornographic content oppose having explicit images so easily accessible on Wikipedia. Q Boyer, a spokesperson for Pink Visual, a company that produces pornographic films, says Wikipedia should at least use a content filter similar to the SafeSearch function on Google.com.

He says Wikipedia could easily label explicit content so that it is blocked by content filters. Many adult-film companies willingly use age restrictions and support content filters for kids.

"At Pink Visual, we label all our sites with metatags and other code-embedded identifiers that enable content filters to know our sites are adult in nature," Boyer told FoxNews.com.

Walsh says one reason explicit content is so easy to find has to do with Wikipedia’s worldwide accessibility. “It would require developing a multinational, multilingual system that identifies whether an article is 'safe' -- but that is not possible when you reach across hundreds of nations and cultures. As a volunteer, non-profit project we're simply not resourced to do that.”

“The trouble is that Wikipedia wants to be all things to all people,” Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia who is no longer affiliated with the site, told FoxNews.com. “But it can't, not as long as some of the people are innocent and impressionable school children, while some other of the people are into fetish porn that most people find incredibly disgusting.”

“I hope that Wikipedia's irresponsibility and mismanagement is not a reflection on me, since I am long gone from the community and have actually jeopardized my reputation among Internet entrepreneurs,” Sanger added.

As for the sponsors of the site: a Google spokeswoman said by e-mail that the search giant has contributed about $350,000 to the site, but otherwise declined to comment. Reports suggest Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has donated to the Wikipedia Foundation as well. Facebook and Microsoft did not respond to requests about these donations.