Kiddie-porn scandal lands Wikipedia a British ban

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia any unemployed Internet commenter can edit, has been banned by British Internet service providers over a display of child porn.

Free-speech zealots among Wikipedia's volunteer editors have insisted that the original cover of Virgin Killer, a 1976 album by German heavy metal band the Scorpions — shown here with a teddy-bear bowdlerization — must run alongside the site's page for the album. Their stubbornness has landed the Wikipedia page on a list of porn sites maintained by Internet Watch, a British group, whose censorship recommendations many British ISPs follow.

The ban seems like overkill, since it covers the album page, not just the image in question. But the fact that Wikipedia has let matters get this far speaks to the site's screwed-up culture. Erik Möller, the deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia's nonprofit parent, has defended child pornography in the past. His extremist stance is mirrored by an outspoken minority within Wikipedia's ranks of editors.

The Wikipedian child-porn fetish is disturbing. But it's a sign of a much deeper problem. Wikipedia editors love to make up bureaucratic rules. It's part of what makes the site so intimidating to new users, and why bias and misreporting so often go uncorrected on the site. Knowledgeable people are scared away by the need to engage in time-wasting arguments with bored teenagers and obsessive Internet users for whom enforcing these rules is a source of cheap entertainment. Why Internet providers are banning Wikipedia pages instead of Wikipedia editors is beyond me.