Wikipornia? Not Really, Fox.

Fox News sometimes uses very sensational headlines: Why is Wikipedia still doling out porn?

As if Wikipedia is actually distributing pornographic materials. They’re not. Certainly there might be some unsavory images on Wikipedia, and there are definitely unsavory images on Wikimedia Commons. Fox mentions bleach, coddle, how it feels, and underwater as search terms that bring up these “pornographic” results.

I couldn’t help but repeat all their searches. Part of the scientific method calls for repeatable experiments, yes?


Um. I see nothing pornographic. I see a bunch of bleach bottles. What? Uh, did they search for… anal bleaching? or something? I did try clicking on a few different categories. I got nothing but bleach bottles, some sort of graph, and some creepy (but not pornographic) foreign celebrities or entertainers or something.


This search turned out a bit more graphic. There is a result with a caption that says “a man and a woman having oral sex,” although it looks more like someone lovingly rubbing a penis on their face. Yes, I blacked out the penis because I didn’t really want to see it. I don’t really want children to get this result if they search on Wikimedia, but then again, coddle? Why would they search for “coddle” on Wikimedia?

How it feels:

I don’t have a picture for this. It’s a lot of masturbation photos. I guess it’s pornographic, but it isn’t exactly porn. What I mean is, from what I saw it was more like a bunch of natural, adult sexual behavior. I’m not saying I want kids to see it, but remember my point about Fox’s sensationalism?*


Underwater bondage. How does Fox describe this?

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

Um, she’s not naked. Seriously, I clicked the picture to make sure. She’s not fully clothed, but she is wearing underwear and none of her “unmentionable” body parts are showing (you know, breasts, vulva, etc.).  “Fetish” and “bondage” are probably not well known words to children so even the caption might not elucidate the photo for them. In other words, while it’s obvious to adults that it’s a picture of some sort of sex-related play, it won’t be obvious to young children. Again, I’m not saying I want kids to see it, but it’s not really porn.

I don’t think Fox’s article or headline is fair to Wikipedia. For example:

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

The author doesn’t explain this in any more detail. By pairing these two sentences (one of which appears grammatically questionable to me), the reporter seems to be implying that pressure was placed on both Wiki and Reddit, that Reddit caved, but Wiki remained stubbornly un-caved**, and that Wiki also has an “entire area dedicated to child pornography.” It implies all of this, but does not substantiate it. Thus it gives the reader an impression of truth that may or may not be true (I don’t know if it is true or not).

It’d certainly be a good thing if Wikipedia worked out a way to filter out mature content so that adults (in schools and in homes) could prevent their kids from seeing penises and sex galore while they try to find images for school projects. I like that idea, but we do have to remember Wikipedia is a volunteer-run non-profit organization with limited resources. While Google could fix a problem like this relatively quickly, Wikipedia is going to take more time unless more, qualified volunteers step forward to help. This is explained well by Wikipedia Spokesperson, Jay Walsh:

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.”

Anyway, wasn’t it nice of Larry Sanger to try to throw Wikipedia under the bus? He doesn’t sound bitter.***

* It should be noted that Fox is by far not the only news site guilty of reprehensible sensationalism.

** un-caved seemed appropriate, although completely made up.

** He sounds so bitter.

How on Earth did they come up with “coddle” as a search term?

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One thought on “Wikipornia? Not Really, Fox.

  1. Jimi says:

    The problem with the internet is that well, it’s global. Search filters both on the sites and in browsers only work so well and people are always looking for ways to beat them. While I am very much for the safety of children surfing the internet, once again, this comes down to a parental responsibility issue. Make sure you know where your kids are going and what they are seeing, do your own best, combined with the software on your system, to make it a safe surfing experience.

    As a simple analogy I remember when I was growing up the adult magazines were kept on the same shelves as all the other magazines, comics and puzzles included. If it wasn’t for parents and attentive store clerks my friends and I never would have left those stores.

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