Wikimedia Foundation addresses controversial content conflict

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Executive Director (pictured in 2007)
Image: Paula Wilson.

The Wikimedia Foundation has taken action in response to last month's image controversy on their Commons project, requesting Executive Director Sue Gardner to examine the issue, and communicating with the wider community about their concerns.

Ms Gardner has hired fellow journalist and former broadcasting executive Robert Harris to carry out this study. Ms Gardner and Mr Harris worked together for seventeen years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In early May Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales deleted scores of images which were targeted as possible pornography, despite community resistance to the campaign. Wales eventually surrendered his rights to delete files, but the controversy over the perceived censorship caused many long-term contributors to rethink their involvement - some have curtailed the time they invest in the site while others have left the project entirely.

Commons Administrator Adam Cuerden expressed his frustration over the deletions when he spoke to Wikinews last month. "He [Wales] basically lied to us from the start. First, by acting as if this was for legal reasons. Second, by pretending he was listening to us, right up to his art deletion." The community irritation led to current efforts to draft a policy regarding sexual content for the site which hosts millions of openly-licensed media.

The Foundation's response is a measured one, according to Foundation Board of Trustees member Jan-Bart de Vreede. "The board thinks that this is an important issue," he told Wikinews yesterday, "we realise that there are many point of view on this. The one thing we don't want to do is draw hasty conclusions. We have therefore asked Sue to do more research into the matter. Our aim would be to get a complete picture of all the aspects and then see if we need next steps. If there are to be next steps, we will take these together with the community."


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.