By Andreas Kolbe
Wikimedia Commons contains a large number of what are called adult media. In discussions online, suspicions are often voiced that objections to this material are simply motivated by prudery. People say that such objections are part of a right-wing agenda pursued by the likes of Fox News. Such suspicions are not easily countered, unless people are prepared to look at the material in question, how it was discussed at Wikimedia, and on what basis it was decided to keep it.
So, here is an internal list – used for tracking purposes by Wikimedia contributors – of Wikimedia Commons “Nudity and sexuality-related deletion requests”. These are all deletion discussions that were closed in favor of keeping the media that had been proposed for deletion:
Now, no one is saying that every one of these deletion discussions came to the wrong conclusion. Some deletion nominations really are just down to prudery, and you will find a few examples in that list. The Wikimedia Foundation is a tax-exempt educational charity, and it clearly does need educational media on sex as much as any other aspect of life. But to get a feeling for the Wikimedia culture, and discuss it knowledgeably, there is no substitute for looking at a few of these discussions, and the media they were about.
To make it easy for you, here are links to the first twenty media files and the related deletion discussions listed on that internal Wikimedia page. These will give you a good overview. Look at the media, look at the discussion, and make up your own mind.
Be advised that some of these media files are very much NSFW, and that you may find some of them neither educational nor palatable.
In reviewing these deletion discussions, you’ll notice how few people are involved in making these decisions. The same names come up again and again; notably the following:
mattbuck: Involved in 19 of these 20 discussions, and the closing administrator in 17 of them.
Cirt: Involved in 13 of these 20 discussions, and the closing administrator in 1 of them.
VolodyA! V Anarhist (Beta M): Involved in 15 of these discussions.
The last one of these three editors is of more than passing interest. He was recently banned by the Wikimedia Foundation from any further participation in Wikimedia projects, after seven years of contributions. The ban came about when an off-site critic posted information identifying him as a Russian man with a child pornography conviction, who had done several years in jail in the US before being deported back to Europe.
In addition to being heavily involved in curating adult material at Wikimedia, this pseudonymous contributor had over the years contacted dozens of other Wikimedia Commons contributors of varying ages on their talk pages. In his messages he suggested to them that they upload nude photographs of themselves to his private porn wiki. When information about his prior conviction and his inappropriate user interactions came to light, a large part of the Wikimedia community – bizarrely – did not see any cause for concern.
Instead, Wikimedia administrators silenced editors who voiced concerns by blocking their accounts. In the end, after weeks of wrangling, the Wikimedia Foundation office made one of its very rare Olympian interventions and banned the contributor, causing a storm of protest from parts of the “community” who considered the contributor “one of their own”. The related Wikimedia Commons discussions are here:
http://is.gd/QJAqV3 (to read the first section, click on the little triangle on the right of the green box).
Lastly, bear in mind that none of Wikimedia’s adult material is filtered, and that all or most of it is available in schools. If after reviewing the above you think that hosting all of these media files, and thousands of others like them – without the kind of adult filter that is standard at Google, YouTube, Flickr and all other reputable websites hosting adult material – is an educational endeavour worthy of supporting by donations, and deserving of tax exemption, then we’ll accept that that is your view. But at least we hope to have enabled you to make a more informed decision.
Photo credit: 아침꿀물 on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons