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Wikimedia Commons pornography concerns – just right-wing prudery?

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:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Categ … uests/kept

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.

warning !


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … attoos.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … attoos.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … rraz_2.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … rraz_2.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … ration.ogv
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … ration.ogv

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … Anal_3.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … inging.gif
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … inging.gif

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … c_hair.JPG
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … e:Plot.JPG

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … veins_.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … veins_.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … a_ball.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … a_ball.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … semand.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … semand.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … course.gif
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … course.gif

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … sculin.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … bation.JPG
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … bation.JPG

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … GIF89a.gif

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … tivita.JPG
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … tivita.JPG

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … _India.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … _India.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … ssiert.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … ssiert.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … u_Girl.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … u_Girl.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … cat-01.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … ature..jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … ature..jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: … _vulva.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commo … _vulva.jpg


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

4 comments to Wikimedia Commons pornography concerns – just right-wing prudery?

  • Moonage Daydream

    Beta M is not banned. Beta M simply cannot log in to his account on any Wikimedia project. That may seem like a silly distinction, but not to those who are even now attempting to have this person return to editing at Wikimedia Commons:
    “Again: There doesn’t exist any global ban policy, therefore, it’s not possible at all that any user can be globally banned up to now. He has been globally locked (by WMF, not by a steward as normally), that’s a technical thing to prevent a user to log into a SUL account (and this is done, just because there doesn’t exist a global block for user accounts, but only for IPs). These things are quite different from each other, a ban means that there has been a community decision, it’s not a technical thing like blocks and locks. –Geitost diskusjon 01:25, 11 April 2012 (UTC)”

  • tarc

    Beta M is banned by and reasonable interpretation of the word. What “banned” may mean in wiki-arcana is irrelevant.

  • Sorry, but I disagree with “Tarc” here. My account “Thekohser” was once attempted by Jimmy Wales to be “globally banned”. One of his lap-dogs, a user called “Mike.lifeguard”, placed the technical “global lock” on my account, so I couldn’t sign in to any Wikimedia project.

    However, several of the Wikimedia projects (Wikibooks, Commons, Wikiversity, Wikisource, to name a few) saw that Mike.lifeguard and Jimmy Wales had both acted out-of-process. There is no “global ban policy”, even if Wales imagines one; and Mike.lifeguard’s use of the “global lock” feature to snuff out the free speech of a critic of Jimmy Wales was against policy.

    So, by a creative twist of renaming the “Thekohser” account, giving it a “lock free” status, then renaming it back to “Thekohser”, those progressive and thoughtful projects mentioned above were able to welcome me back into their communities as a productive contributor.

    Thus, at least for me, Moonage’s distinction was relevant, and Tarc’s snitty reply was unnecessary.

  • Andreas Kolbe

    Update on the above story:

    It cannot be emphasised enough that the Commons community did not want to ban the contributor discussed above. The community’s refusal to pronounce a community ban forced the Wikimedia Foundation to globally lock the contributor’s user account – a decision that was approved by the Foundation’s Executive Director, Sue Gardner, and its General Counsel, Geoff Brigham.



    The Internet discussion forums where members of the public first posted the evidence and concerns about the now globally locked contributor “Beta M” (i.e. Wikipediocracy and Wikipedia Review) – evidence and concerns that led to this action by the Wikimedia Foundation – have today been blacklisted by the Wikimedia Commons community.



    In doing so, the Wikimedia Commons community proves that it is far more ready to pronounce bans against those voicing common-sense criticism of its activities than it is to pronounce bans against contributors with child pornography convictions.