Disgruntled Ex-Wikipedia Guy, Larry Sanger, Accuses Wikipedia Of Distributing Child Porn

from the desperate-much dept

It's no secret that Larry Sanger is no fan of Wikipedia. He's often credited as being a co-founder of the site, though some dispute this. He was involved in the creation of Nupedia, Wikipedia's predecessor, which was more of a traditional expert-edited online encyclopedia. While many involved in Wikipedia these days downplay his role there, Sanger has made a pretty compelling case that he was heavily involved in the early days. Either way, since he left, he's gone way out of his way to distance himself from Wikipedia, while setting up a competitor (again, an expert-edited encyclopedia) that doesn't get much usage. Every few months or so, he seems to find some way to pop up in the news, often using his connection to Wikipedia as the hook for why the press should cover his competitor, which appears to get almost no traffic whatsoever.

His latest tactic is really pretty low. SimonTek points us to a Fox News article all about Sanger calling on the FBI to investigate Wikipedia for distributing child porn. While Fox of course plays up Sanger's Wikipedia credentials, they leave out the fact that he has been working on a failed competitor for years (they mention the company name, but not that it's a competitor). They also leave out much of the animosity between Sanger and Wikipedia.

This story actually got some attention a few weeks ago on Slashdot, where many commenters, rightfully, took Sanger to task. Sanger responded to the criticism by arguing a few points, saying that he was required by law to report his findings to the FBI. To some extent, on that point, he is correct, though it is an issue with the law that focuses on criminalizing even those who accidentally run across questionable material, rather than focusing on those who create and purposely distribute the material (the real problems). However, he does appear to go somewhat out of his way to publicize this claim. He could have just alerted the FBI and been done with it... but he republished his letter to the FBI on a mailing list. That certainly raises some serious questions.

On top of that, his complaint is not about actual photographs of child pornography, but drawings. Indeed, the courts have found that even such depictions count as child pornography -- though many people find that arguable about whether or not a made up drawing exploits a child in any way.

The real problem, of course, is that this (like so many arguments over this stuff) takes away from the real issue: which is stopping those actually responsible for child pornography. Attacking Wikipedia is not the answer and does little to help the issue -- especially when the attack comes from someone with a long history of animosity towards the site, and a failing competitor. Why not focus those resources on actually dealing with the real problem? Wouldn't we all rather that the FBI is focused on actually stopping those involved in the production of child pornography than wasting time going after Wikipedia? Part of the problem is certainly with the way the law is structured today, but it does seem that Sanger went out of his way to try to broadcast this attack when that absolutely was not necessary.

He makes it even worse in the Fox story by claiming that he was doing this to alert educators that Wikipedia is dangerous for school children. That's flat-out ridiculous. For the most part, it is not. It's quite unlikely that anyone is going to accidentally stumble onto those drawings on Wikipedia -- and they're equally as likely to find similar (or worse) stuff elsewhere. To call out all of Wikipedia as being unsuitable because of this is clearly going way too far.

Filed Under: child porn, larry sanger, wikipedia


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 3 May 2010 @ 5:25pm

    Re:

    *sigh* I said I'd stop responding, but this one is just too rich. Really.

    Mike Masnick, I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy

    Good for you. I don't have a PhD, but I also taught logic, but I've found that anyone who highlights their degrees to prove an argument has none.

    I regularly support my views on all sorts of things with very carefully thought-out arguments.

    You did not do so here and everyone has called you on it.

    I did so in this case: I presented you with a perfectly cogent argument, which you have chosen to ignore. You, on the other hand, have done little more than abuse me.

    No, I did not ignore your argument. I read it, and responded to it, and you moved the yardstick. You claimed that you only wrote the letter because the law required you to do so. So we pointed out that you were clearly lying because you also publicized it -- which the law does not require. So clearly, there were motives beyond just "the law requires it." Then, you defended the first lie by claiming that you had to publicize it so people would know about this (contrary to your false claim that you only did this because the law demanded it). Then people called you on your second argument, because the evidence showed that what you were complaining about were NOT things that most people found problematic. Your response was to again move the line, and change the argument, claiming that you had to stop the "normalization" of pedophilia. So we called you on that obviously wrong argument, as there is no movement to normalize pedophilia. And your response is to move the yard line again, and claim that there is a movement based on a few individuals who are getting nowhere or who are merely questioning where the boundary should be.

    No offense, but to argue that questioning where the boundary should be is "normalizing" pedophilia is really troubling. You seem to have decided what Larry Sanger doesn't like and because of that anyone who questions that is somehow a sicko trying to popularize pedophilia.

    But that is, on its face, ridiculous.

    Every argument you have made has been shown to be ridiculous.

    Then you resort to ad hominems and ridiculous assertions against me (such as being sure I have no kids). If that's "logic" I now have even less respect for Ohio State, who apparently gave you your degree.

    You are a git, and a logically challenged one at that.

    And what, pray tell, is the logic of ad hominem attacks on those who prove you wrong?

    You presented no logical argument. You just insisted that because YOU don't like something it must be bad, and when people questioned the definitions on the edge, you freaked out and claimed that they were "normalizing" the evil of pedophilia. You were wrong, and got called on it.

    Give it up Larry. You are wrong and are fighting a ridiculous crusade. Tons of people have called you on it. It's time to stop digging a deeper hole.

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