The image was kept, and the article remained on the front page for its full 24 hours.A few months later, in June, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees began to discuss how the Wikimedia community was handling controversial imagery. Because some people seemed to be using Commons to stockpile commercial porn; because the German community had put a close-up photo of a vagina on its homepage; and because upskirt photos and controversial editorial cartoons seemed to be being categorized in ways that seemed designed to be provocative, and the people who complained about them were being shot down.
I know that some people believe that the Wikimedia Foundation is intending to coercively intervene into the projects, in effect overruling the judgment of the editorial community. That doesn’t relieve us of the obligation to be thoughtful and responsible. We need to have a discussion about how to responsibly handle objectionable imagery.
I don’t see it that way, I regret that others do, and I dislike the ‘authoritarian parent / rebellious adolescent’ dynamic we seem to be having trouble resisting. That discussion doesn’t need to happen with the Wikimedia Foundation (or at least, not solely with the Wikimedia Foundation).
The Wikimedia Foundation was concerned that a kind of market failure might be happening — that the Wikimedia community, which is generally so successful at achieving good decision quality through a consensus process, was for some reason failing to handle the issue of controversial material well.
It set out to explore what was going on, and whether we needed to handle controversial imagery differently.
That triggered community members’ fears of censorship and editorial interference.
And so we find ourselves today, sixteen months later, locked in angry debate.For the past sixteen months, the Wikimedia Foundation has been having uncomfortable conversations about how we handle controversial imagery in our projects — including, a few weeks ago, the staging of a referendum on an image hiding feature requested by our Board.The purpose of this post is not to talk specifically about the referendum results or the image hiding feature: for that, I’ll be talking in more official venues.The projects should be talking internally about how to avoid unnecessarily surprising and offending readers, without compromising any of our core values.Those community members who are acting like provocateurs and agitators need to stop.In lots of areas, we are currently doing a good job. When an editor asks if the image cleavage_(breasts)really belongs in the article about clothing necklines, she shouldn’t get shouted down about prudishness: we should try to find better images that don’t overly sexualize a non-sexual topic. ” after vagina,anus,perineum_(detail)is posted on the front page, the response shouldn’t be WP: NOTCENSORED: we should have a discussion about who visits the homepage, and we should try to understand, and be sensitive to, their expectations and circumstances and needs. It demonstrates transparency, a willingness to be accountable, and a desire to help and serve our readers — and it would earn us trust.