At least six UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are restricting access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, because of an article that includes an album cover image of a naked and possibly underage girl.
An unintended side effect of the block left UK users of the online encyclopaedia unable to edit other articles, Wikimedia said.
The article concerns the album "Virgin Killer" by German band The Scorpions. The record has generated controversy due to its cover photo ever since it was released in 1976. The album features a naked young girl posing provocatively on the cover.
Wikinews, a free-content news source wiki and a project of the Wikimedia Foundation, posted a story on Sunday claiming that at least six UK ISPs are restricting access due to an image Wikipedia is hosting, which some are suggesting is child pornography.
Wikinews reports that UK ISPs have implemented monitoring and filtering mechanisms that are causing major problems for UK contributors on websites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, amongst up to 1,200 other websites.
The URL of the article was added to a blacklist published by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a non-profit group that works with law enforcement to block and remove child pornography from websites.
Some 95 percent of UK ISPs use IWF's blacklist, although non-residential Internet connections are not affected, according to the Wikimedia Foundation.
The measures applied caused the ISPs to redirect traffic for a significant portion of the UK's Internet population through six proxy servers, which can log and filter the content that is available to the end user, Wikinews say. But the knock on effect resulted in Wikipedia being unable to distinguish UK users from one another by their IP address. That triggered Wikipedia's anti-abuse mechanism, blocking all non-registered UK users from editing articles, according to the foundation.
Wikinews said administrators on Wikimedia sites are unable to block vandals and other troublemakers without potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of innocent contributors who are working on the sites in good faith.
A statement issued by IWF on Sunday said the album cover was flagged earlier this month and judged to be a "potentially illegal indecent image of a child under 18."
The Wikipedia image is hosted outside the UK. The Wikimedia Foundation said online retailer Amazon.com also hosts an image of the original album cover, which is on many other websites accessed by UK citizens.
"We have no reason to believe the image has been held to be illegal in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world," a Wikimedia Foundation statement said.
A look at the history of edits to the Wikipedia story indicates a robust debate about the album cover has been going on since earlier this year.
A notice on the "discussion" section for the article read that the album cover will not be removed and advised that users who are offended should configure their browser to block it.
Anyone wanting to view the original cover within the UK can perform a simple Google search, which brings into question the actions of the IWF.