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German Wikipedia continues image filter protest

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By Resident Mario and Jan eissfeldt

Image filter sparks protests on the German Wikipedia

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In June 2010, following controversy over the appearance of the vulva article as the German Wikipedia's article of the day, allegations by Larry Sanger of hosting inappropriate graphic depictions of children, and other controversial events, the board voted for an external survey, to be conducted by Robert Harris, of controversial images on Wikimedia. The study was completed by October of that year, but its recommendations were not immediately adopted. In the interim, in December, a poll failed to gain the consensus necessary to promote Commons:Sexual content to a policy, and the Wikimedia leadership focused on the topic as a central issue for 2011. In March 2011 a technical draft of a personal image filter that enables users to hide for themselves images they do not want to see was presented to the Board.

However, a poll this August showed just how polarizing the issue is for many users; on the German Wikipedia in particular, a separate vote showed that more than 4/5 of users were opposed to institution of the filter, including some 35% of core users. As Jan eissfeldt explained in an op-ed last month, the German community is particularly motivated against censorship issues; as another user put it on the mailing list, "it is against the basic rules of the project. It is intended to discriminate content. To judge about it and to represent you this judgment before you have even looked at it." On October 9, the results of the poll were followed by a "Letter to the community on Controversial Content" from WMF Board chair Ting Chen (User:Wing) and a clarification by WMF executive director Sue Gardner that although the Board's May resolution on controversial content still stood, "the specific thing that has been discussed over the past several months, and which the Germans voted against" was not being pursued any more, and that "the goal is a solution that's acceptable for everyone". Still, the letter triggered extensive discussion by German Wikipedians; and Sue Gardner promised to discuss the issue with them directly when coming to Germany in November for the German chapter's annual meeting.

Shortly thereafter, Wikipedian Sargoth proposed on October 19 that users should put white paper bags over their heads as a sign of protest when Gardner arrived. In the interim, users have taken to posting an image of a white paper bag on their userpages in protest. As of writing, more than 150 users have done so. The image filter issue has united the Germans, as one user wrote, "in a way that I haven't seen in several years." In addition, a filter-less German Wikipedia fork has been proposed, and as of writing the community poll on the issue stands at 31/40/24/1. In the meantime the referendum committee published the second and third appendices of results on Meta to make the votes per project and by age of account transparent. On October 28, Sue Gardner reiterated that she had taken the category-based solution off the table, and will not impose anything on the German community against their will.

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Image filter sparks protests on the German Wikipedia

I like the paper bag idea, so I went and put one on my userpage. It looks rather nice, actually. SilverserenC 18:06, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

What's the white bag about? Against the arrival of Gardner? or for or against the image content filtering? Regards, SunCreator (talk) 18:19, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
It means you're against the image filter. SilverserenC 18:24, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Item reads as if it's against Gardner or her arrival. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 18:28, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Some people probably mean it that way, yes, but I was more going with "The white paper bag that has become symbolic of resistance to the image filter". SilverserenC 18:35, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Is there any cultural significance to "white paper bag" in Germany? As in, for the US, the phrase "plain brown wrapper" means hiding something taboo, usually sexual. So is "white paper bag" something similar for Germans, or no special meaning? -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 20:18, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
No "special meaning" for Germans that I am aware of. General connotation of hiding something from view. --Atlasowa (talk) 00:40, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
It's a white bag because it has no label on it. I'm opposed to labeling Wikipedia content as "objectionable" or "controversial", it violates NPOV. Using this symbol when Sue Gardner arrives at the German meeting is meant as a demonstration, since not every wikipedian can grab the microphone to make a personal statement. --Atlasowa (talk) 20:28, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
OK, but does the phrase "white paper bag" have cultural meaning to Germans? (symbolizing "unbranded"? No Logo?) -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 20:49, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedian Schlesinger came up with the idea that it might be better to put the white paper bag not over your own but the head of another person, if this person astonishes you or shows no respect for your feelings. The white bag symbol can also be implemented as upgrade of feedback-barnstar-tool if someone astonishes you onwiki. Sargoth (talk) 10:13, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I find it strange that the image filter issue is always presented in the Signpost as a "german problem". There is a french Wikipedia poll that shows a similar opposition and a spanish one as well. Even in the English Wikipedia, when you look at the meta:Controversial content/Timeline, you find consistent opposition over years against filtering or labeling educational content on moral grounds/for young students/as potentially offensive/as sexual/as disgusting etc. In the German Wikipedia, nothing like that was even proposed, afaik. This whole image filter discussion appears to be a North American issue (see US social conservatives letters to the FBI Reporting of child pornography images on Wikimedia Commons 2010 and Internet Watch Foundation and Wikipedia 2008). It certainly wasn't caused by the vulva image (which wasn't a scandal for the German public). --Atlasowa (talk) 20:28, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

It's a "german problem" because of the vulva front-page article - if that were done in the US, it would have been scandalous. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 20:49, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
The United Kingdom (your last link) isn't in North America ;)
And while I agree that the German public is probably more relaxed with respect to sexual images than the US public, it is worth recalling that Wikipedia has seen considerable political pressure in Germany as well - likewise including a letter to the prosecutor - over other kinds of images [1] (arguably not without some effect on internal discussion processes). Images which, in turn, do not usually meet with this kind of strong objection in the US.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 21:34, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I know where the UK is. Please read the article and tell me where the hysteria originated that lead to blocking Wikipedia in the UK. Was it the US-based social conservative site WorldNetDaily and Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America writing letters to the FBI? --Atlasowa (talk) 00:40, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
No, the conjecture that the WND website (which is pretty fringe even by US standards, unlike Fox News) and/or Barber prompted the IWF's action is not supported by the facts stated in that article, which says: "The IWF said they were first notified of the Wikipedia URL on Thursday, 4 December 2008" (i.e. more than half a year after WND went public with its accusations and reported Wikipedia to the FBI). What's more, the article cites an expert statement from The Guardian saying that because "the IWF doesn't talk to people outside of the UK they weren't able to appreciate what was going on [in the US]".
In any case, it is very weird to present this image, where an US authority declined to take action but an European authority (or quasi-official body) resorted to extreme censorship measures, as proof that all this is just "a North American issue". (NB: I was quite familiar with that article, thank you - I also wrote part of the relevant section in Virgin Killer and bits of Internet Watch Foundation.) By the way, after the British incident the Virgin Killer cover was also brought to the attention of Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprüfstelle), the "Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz" (commission for youth media protection) and the "Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter" (organization for voluntary self regulation of multimedia service providers), and the Bundesprüfstelle took it serious enough to investigate it for a while. While these bodies, like the FBI in the US, do not appear to have taken action in this case, they certainly have in case of numerous other offensive images/media in recent years, as have German criminal prosecutors. A German state even tried to impose IWF-like measures on ISPs to block (gory images). All in all, while you are correct in pointing out that there are cultural differences even among Western countries, it would be silly to pretend that scandals/controversies about images that some people find offensive do not exist in Germany (or any other country). Of course acknowledging the existence of such controversies still leaves ample room for disagreement about how Wikipedia should deal with these images.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 13:50, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • I see that my tagging of the FS process as inactive made it to the signpost. It wasn't something that I wanted to do or looked forward to doing. I am in the mist of writing up some of my thoughts on the process's decline and death. The idea of Featured Media has been thrown around. If anyone is pursing that idea, I ask that you ignore the listing of sounds (and videos) as it stands now. I estimate that up to 1/4 of all sounds listed are not front page worthy. One day, I hope to see the process back on its feet. I hope I can be there to help. --Guerillero | My Talk 20:02, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Errors in the article


But that's exactly what the article states. German vote on the German Wikipedia. The general vote is further up, and says that "opinions are diverse", basically. You're asking for clarification on something I assumed was already clear - that a specifically German vote would have specifically German consequences. ResMar 12:43, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
>>Registered (and signed in) users who made 100 or more edits in a month<<
This is plainly wrong. The generall voting eligibility (Allgemeine de:Wikipedia:Stimmberechtigung) which is required for voting in this and other polls does not require a user to make 100 or more edits in a month. In fact it does require a user to be active for at least three month, and to have made 200 edits in the article namespace, thereof 50 edits in the article namespace within the last year.
Indeed, it seems to requirements for a very active editor is above for voting. I'm not sure what you're getting at. ResMar 17:47, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

This last inaccuracy (among some others) also has been observed in a comment to a Signpost opinion essay at Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2011-09-26/Opinion essay#Some errors in the article. While an editor of the Signpost has duely pointed out that the piece there is the opinion of the writer and not that of The Signpost, this article here claims to report factual "news and notes" and not to only express views of the authors.

You are pointing out ambiguities not opinions. ResMar 17:47, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

--Rosenkohl (talk) 22:09, 1 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Resident Mario, thanks for your response. A reader of the Signpost-article could think that the German opinion poll did generally "oppose to institution of the filter" on Wikimedia projects, or oppose to institution of the filter on any other project than the German Wikipedia, which is not the case. One of the authors of the article in a previous Signpost-opinion essay is claiming that the poll does "totally reject the idea of the proposed image filter", which is a wrong and misleading representation of the poll's proposal, so I'm reluctant to assume the proposal of the poll is well understood by the authors of this article.

I'm getting at that the German Wikipedia is not run by "core users", as construed by the the Signpost, nor is it run or controlled by reserved tables, as the opinion essay is claiming, but by the editors. Last time I was told that the figure "35%" is the opinion of the writer of the opinion essay, now I'm told that the figure "35%" is ambiguous.

Greetings, --Rosenkohl (talk) 21:18, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

One of the authors of the article in a previous Signpost-opinion Sven pointed out on his talk page, opinion essays run as they come, usually. You shouldn't think everything an opinion essay says is grounded in facts; invariably, there's going to be some opinion and interpretation there.
not run by "core users" I did not intend to say that the German Wikipedia is run by a certain group; the statistic is simply a measure of community participation in the poll. There are few processes anywhere that get 35% participation from established editors, and so "35%" outlines the dearth of the poll for the German community. ResMar 22:38, 2 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Above I've already conceded that at Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2011-09-26/Opinion essay#Some errors in the article, an editor of the Signpost has duely pointed out to me that an opinion essay is the opinion of the writer and not that of The Signpost. However now in this "News and Notes"-Signpost-article the same author of the opinion essay is claiming as facts some things which were previously presented as opinions in the essay (misleading representation of the proposal of the German opinion poll, alleged existence of a group of "core users" or a "core community" in the German Wikipedia, the "35%"-figure).

That write-up is basically mine, edited by HaeB. Jan didn't write it, so you can't accuse him of COI. ResMar 23:25, 3 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
It's true that I edited the write-up (at ResMar's request), but in order to avoid possible misunderstandings, it seems worth pointing out that "edited" should be understood in the usual sense of "editing a wiki page", not acting as the editor of a news publication (I stopped being the editor of the Signpost several months ago). While doing this, I corrected some issues, but didn't look into the one discussed here. As noted at Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/About, the authors responsible for a Signpost story are listed in the byline. Regards, HaeB (talk) 21:13, 6 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

This Signpost-article links to the page, which says it has "Data" for "German Wikipedia at a glance September 2011". "Very active editors" are those "registered (and signed in) users who made 100 or more edits in a month" in "proper articles only".

Among numbers 258-357 who voted at de:Wikipedia:Meinungsbilder/Einführung persönlicher Bildfilter#Persönliche Bildfilter und Filterkategorien sollen nicht in der deutschsprachigen Wikipedia eingeführt werden, I find with de:Spezial:Beiträge that the 72 user accounts Kleiner Tümmler, Rosenkohl, Olaf Simons, THWZ, Frank schubert, Luha, 7gscheitester, Marvin 101, Chriusha, Rosenzweig, Grixlkraxl, Pommesgabel, Nightflyer, Alchemist-hp, S. F. B. Morse, Backlit, Alabasterstein, J budissin, Carlos-X, Mordan, Dodo von den Bergen, Nina, Homer9913, Noddy93, Zapane, Quedel, Firefly05, (Herr Lehrer, ich weiß was!), Zerolevel, Losch, Bvo66, Verum, Tavok, Tets, Hybscher, Wmeinhart, Ronnie O., Häuslebauer, TheK, O. aus M., Bernd Bergmann, Logograph, Michael Hobi, Conny, Tusmann, Der Messer, WiseWoman, Zapyon, Claudioverfuerth, Xario, Conspiration, Mideal, Euku, 7gscheiter, Jengelh, Wirthi, Ben-Oni, Hundehalter, Toytoy, Nurgut, NikiWiki, CroMagnon, Ulanwp, Caryptes, Don Leut, Qualle, Qcomp, DTD, Traut, JGlueck, Dlonra, Söan, Adromel, MovGP0 made less then 100 article edits in September 2011. So 72% of this sample group are not among the "very active editors" as counted by

So the "35%"-statistics does not only fail to take account of the voting eligibility for the poll as pointed out above, but also it also evokes a false impression of the actual numbers of article-edits of those who voted for the proposal.

So I disagree that the statistics "35%" is a "measure of community participation in the poll", or that "35%" is a measure for anything else, --Rosenkohl (talk) 11:50, 3 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I'm not sure what you're pointing out. 72% of voters in your sample are not "highly active", 35% (or, in your sample group 28%) are. I used core editors to refer to that 35%, not to imply anything about voting standards, which I'm sure were fairly low. ResMar 23:25, 3 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Sorry, i don't accuse the article of any serious crime, but I wonder if it can be taken seriously what the article says. Should it turn out that those who put their signatures above a Signpost-article are not those who are responsible for the article's content, ok then I'm fine with it and will stop reading further issues of Signpost.

What is the meaning of "including some 35% of core users" in the sentence "a separate vote showed that more than 4/5 of users were opposed to institution of the filter, including some 35% of core users"

  • a) 125 users, that is 35% of all those who opposed, are among core users? or
  • b) 355 users, that is 35% of all core users, are among those who opposed?

a) and b) are clearly entirely different interpretations. Now your last statement "72% of voters in your sample are not "highly active", 35% (or, in your sample group 28%) are" seems to interpret the "35%" in the sense of a). But this article refers us back to the opinion essay for explanation, which claimed that "according to, approximately 35% of the core community of the German Wikipedia (357 users) voted to totally reject the idea of the proposed image filter as they interpreted it in a local poll that publicly passed with 86% support". I think the meaning of this sentence from the opinion essay:

"approximately 35% of the core community of the German Wikipedia (357 users) voted to totally reject"

is clearly b) and not a).

--Rosenkohl (talk) 09:57, 4 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

The Signpost is modular, not everything is written by one user. ResMar 17:30, 4 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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