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Wikia’s “Spanking fetish” site and the use of photographs of children

with 16 comments

Co-founder of Wikipedia and Wikia Jimbo Wales at a Wikimania ConventionThe below essay (by Review member “Dogbiscuit”) was submitted after Wikipedia Review discovered that Wikia, Inc, the for-profit company founded by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, were hosting a Wiki called Spanking Art. This Wiki detailed sexual fetish practices relating to corporal punishment, but also featured numerous sexualized images of children and photographs of minors uploaded in innocence by editors to Wikipedia and the Wiki-Commons.

Our discovery provoked protests against “Spanking Art” on Wikipedia itself. One editor, a representative of the Scouting movement whose uploaded photo of boy scouts had been transported onto the Spanking Sex site without permission, demanded answers on Jimbo Wales’s Wikipedia talk page. Eventually Wales personally deleted material from the Wikia site. Later, the entire Spanking Art site was removed, with an accompanying statement made by a representative of Wikia Inc. :

Thanks for the concern. There have been some outside inquiries about the content of the wiki that were very difficult to deal with in a thoughtful way on a Friday afternoon. We chose to remove the wiki from public view while we work with the both the complainants and the community to make sure that the wiki is focused on its mission of documenting adult sexuality. All parties have been polite and responsive and we hope to have the issue resolved soon.

We do reserve the right to remove access to our wikis on the very rare occasion when we decide it is necessary, but the GFDL license means that the content belongs to the community, and we comply with that license by making backups of all wikis available on a daily basis. We will be happy to provide more information as it becomes available. — Catherine@Wikia (talk) 03:15, 28 January 2008 (UTC)


Dogbiscuit: One of the Review’s ongoing concerns is the subtle manipulation of Wikipedia entries by anonymous people, supported by administrators, often under the guise of supporting a neutral point of view.

What started out as an uncomfortable feeling about what should have been an uncontroversial article soon turned into a child abuse scandal, bringing into stark relief what the true implications of the Creative Commons license really are - and how Jimbo Wales’ Wikia Inc. was hosting a wiki that condoned child abuse.

Wikipedia and Wiki-Commons

On Wikipedia, it is common to find innocent articles such as “Bench furniture” acquiring less common usages. Would your granny really be expecting to find this un-ergonomic design when looking for inspiration for some garden seating? Wikipedia Review had noticed previously that electric carving knives also encouraged some odd usages.

But the extreme level of inappropriate content was brought home by a Wikipedia Review investigation prompted by an observation on the seemingly innocent Wikipedia article “Boy“. Wikipedia Review members noticed some disturbing links once the team had pulled at a loose thread. Why would an encyclopedic article on “boys” prominently link to sexual role playing, BDSM and spanking? Why so many pictures of bare children? Why the frat boys baring their behinds?

Attention turned to the Wikimedia Commons library, the Wikimedia Foundation’s repository of free to use pictures and sounds. It became apparent that pictures uploaded to illustrate articles on topics as mundane as Boy Scouts had been subverted into uses that no reasonable person would have considered. WikiMedia Commons also had a category “Lolita” where someone had gathered together otherwise innocent pictures of young girls into a disturbing collection.

Wikia’s Spanking Art

The loose coverings rapidly unravelled to reveal a disturbing link to the for-profit Wikia Inc hosted wiki called Spanking Art, supported by funding from amongst others. Wikia Inc provides a free hosting service for anyone to set up a Wiki, subject to approval by Wikia Inc. In true Jimbo uncensored style, wikis on cannabis, spanking and nudity sit side by side with wikis on Pokemon and Thomas the Tank Engine - where will the Random Page take Gordon to today, wondered the Fat Controller?

It transpired that the anonymous owner of Spanking Art had plundered both Wikipedia and the Commons library to populate his site, described on its main page as

… containing nonpornographic nudity, sexuality related material and links to external adult websites.

The photographs of children uploaded to Wikipedia by good faith Wikipedians were all legitimately used under the WikiMedia Creative Commons Licensing - together with a collection of naive drawings featuring children being spanked by adults.

The serious implications of releasing under GFDL/CC licensing come home when reviewing the site. What is the text of the Wikipedia Boy Scout article doing in a spanking site? What are the implications of carrying across pictures of boy scouts from Wikipedia to the spanking site - these are real children, clearly identifiable - together with additional contributions such as a picture entitled “Members of a cub scout pack being spanked together.”

Our concern is this: what people may do in the discomfort of their own dungeon is normally their own business, but publicly encouraging smacking children for sexual pleasure goes beyond what we believe is socially acceptable. Even if we set aside what may be the motivations of the people creating the site, we are also mindful that real people may be embarrassed in the real world by being associated with such a site, and such exposure could have serious consequences for those identified to be shown in the context of a spanking site.

Raising the issue on Wikipedia

Having apparently read of these complaints on Wikipedia Review, Wikipedia user John Finlay bravely risked the bear pit of Jimbo Wales’s talk page to raise the issue. After an initial response of “There is no scandal here”, there was the unhelpful but insightful :

“You’re missing a detail here. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia… …So every photo on Wikipedia can be “twisted and exploited” in the long run. Metros (talk) 03:35, 22 January 2008 (UTC)”

The penny finally dropped and the realisation that this could be a big scandal hit home. Yet at the same time some, certain Wikipedia administrators were pondering a ban for legal threats against those who raised the issue.

The images are removed

A hurried clean up began, albeit with no public statement from Jimbo, though he personally deleted some of the more reprehensible content. The spanking site removed the identifiable pictures of minors. “Category:Lolita” and the accompanying photographs of young girls was deleted from Wiki-Commons. The Spanking Art site introduced a non-violence policy and banned photographs of children (but still did not seem too worried about the rights of adults who might be aggrieved about their image being subverted, or drawings of children being abused).

The fundamental point is this: anything you do to contribute to “Building an encyclopedia” can not only be mercilessly edited, but mercilessly perverted into any project, anywhere on the Internet. Wikia and Wikipedia are not alone in this, Flickr and other media sites are equally prone to this abuse. Those who dream of a world where everyone freely licenses their materials need to be far more responsible about explaining what an irrevocable license really means.

Duty of Care

What was more troubling is that this behaviour, which was certainly condoning and apparently encouraging violence against children, was not happening on some hard core porn site from Russia, but on a site approved of by Wikia Inc. itself and hosted on servers in the USA, sponsored by major corporations including Amazon, Microsoft, Bank of America and Pizza Hut, run by someone that Time magazine considered one of the most influential people in the world. As one long time Wikipedia Reviewer put it, Jimbo’s choice was stark: “Either be known for running a site carrying sketches of children being abused amidst a host of gratuitous sado-masochistic imagery, or face reality like everyone else and realize that you are part of society. Either take responsibility to protect the vulnerable in society, or tolerate abuse.”

Within Wikipedia itself, it is clear that there are no control structures to manage any ethical approach to the information presented. Wikipedia contains many “adults only” pages of information, yet there are no systems for controlling or differentiating access based on age, indeed, many of the administrators responsible for controlling inappropriate behaviour are minors themselves.

As the curators of one of the most accessed web sites in the world, isn’t it about time the Wikimedia Foundation stepped up to the plate and accepted its duty of care?


Below is a cached screenshot taken from the defunct site, Spanking Art. The front page featured news updates of the site’s response to our protests against Wikia, including mention of the rapid removal of photographs of children, and two banners, one of which is a link to Wikia’s Pokemon Wiki.


Written by The Review

January 30th, 2008 at 3:39 pm

16 Responses to 'Wikia’s “Spanking fetish” site and the use of photographs of children'

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  1. The Review

    30 Jan 08 at 3:55 pm

  2. I’d followed this issue casually, as a contributor to another Wikia that features adult discussion, but this is the first reference I’d heard of images featuring children. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the protest comments neglected to mention that, I’m more surprised that Wikia’s response to their protest also kept that hushed up.

    Also, this article seems to be propagating a needless confusion between Wikia and Wikipedia; the two sites and organizations are not the same. A failure to maintain factual integrity can mislead and misdirect the sensational rumors this hot-button issue has the potential to fuel. Wikipedia has no involvement at in Wikia’s content.


    1 Feb 08 at 12:18 am

  3. DokEnkephalin, the reason you may feel that there is a confusion between Wikia and Wikipedia is because

    (1) Some of the images of children that appeared on the Spanking site were uploaded to Wikipedia and moved across. Here is one such picture and here is the photographer who uploaded it in innocence to Wikipedia discussing it on Wikipedia.
    (2) The text to certain articles, such as “Boy Scouts” that appeared on Wikia’s Spanking Site were taken directly from Wikipedia
    (3) The article discusses this in relation to activities going on at the Wiki-Commons such as the Lolita Category and Wikipedia’s boy article
    (4) The photograph of Jimbo Wales promoting Wikia is taken from a WikiMania conference, a WikiMedia Foundation event.
    (5) Wikia was founded by Jimbo Wales and Angela Beesley when they were both board members of the Wikimedia Foundation, the tax exempt group that runs Wikipedia and the WikiCommons. Wikimedia Foundation Board of Directors includes: Jimmy Wales (Chairman Emeritus) and Michael E. Davis (Treasurer). Wikimedia Foundation also enjoys the services of a former Board member, who remains a member of the Communications Committee of the Wikimedia Foundation and also chairs the Foundation’s Advisory Board: Angela Beesley. Key players at the for-profit Wikia, Inc.: Jimmy Wales (co-founder), Michael E. Davis (Treasurer and Secretary), Angela Beesley (co-founder and vice president for community relations).
    (6) Jimbo Wales was informed of the issue by editors on his talk page of Wikipedia.
    (7) The Wikia administrator who removed the Spanking Site, Catherine Munro, is also an administrator of Wikipedia.

    By the way, if you followed the issue casually, how on earth did you miss the elephant in the room — the root of the issue — and the reason why the Spanking Site was removed? Which was the use of images of children on the Wiki. That seems preposterous…


    1 Feb 08 at 12:54 am

  4. Dok,

    Thanks for the considered comments.

    I’m not sure that anyone would have much of a problem with an adult site with adult content (especially in the context of what is already out there). That is not what Spanking Art contained. That was fixable, and was in the process of being fixed.

    Wikia were also irresponsible in failing to maintain a line between the child interest wikis and the adult ones. Their T & Cs simply suggest there is no content for children, therefore they do not have a problem: it is unconvincing. Again, it is fixable, and I see it as immoral to hide behind some T & C wording that they do not enforce, rather than to put in place some simple mechanism to segregate content.

    I agree that there is confusion between Wikia and Wikipedia, but that is not of our making, there are many conflicts of interest, and information released for use in one organisation readily flowed into the other. That is a “so what?” issue in many respects: the message is, be careful what you licence: you have no control, just the “credit” - and you need to be aware that it is not just your work that is affected by that, but the subject of your work.

    I hope on careful reading, you will see that the essay does distinguish between the two organisations and the different issues. If only Jimbo took the same care.


    1 Feb 08 at 1:07 am

  5. I wonder if pornography is

    ‘This License applies to any manual or other work, in any medium, that contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the terms of this License. Such a notice grants a world-wide, royalty-free license, unlimited in duration, to use that work under the conditions stated herein. The “Document”, below, refers to any such manual or work. Any member of the public is a licensee, and is addressed as “you”.’

    Since minors are members of the public, they are licensees of the GFDL. However, in most first-world jurisdictions, it is impossible to give minors the right to ‘use’ pornography. This does not have to be stated by the GFDL. Under contract law, I believe it is impossible to agree to do something illegal, therefore it is implied.

    ‘A “Transparent” copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public….’

    ‘Preserve the network location, if any, given in the Document for public access to a Transparent copy of the Document, and
    likewise the network locations given in the Document for previous versions it was based on. These may be placed in the “History” section. You may omit a network location for a work that was published at least four years before the Document itself, or if the original publisher of the version it refers to gives permission.’

    Since it is not legal to knowingly give minors living in such jurisdictions (which are the ones most likely to have network access) access to such material, it would be impossible to legally provide a network Transparent copy of something containing pornography. Granted, pornography sites often do not prevent minors from viewing them, but they are at least click-wrapped, where children and those not wishing to view the material are expected to leave the site.

    So, if someone licences a typical, innocent, non-pornographic work under the GFDL, and someone else creates a modified version with pornography, the modifier cannot legally fulfil the conditions of the GFDL. Therefore, pornography is not GFDL-compatible.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.


    3 Feb 08 at 10:43 am

  6. AB,

    To be fair to the SpankingArt wikia, I don’t think anyone has claimed that the pictures are pornographic, it is just that it was highly inappropriate for pictures of children to be used in that context.

    That being said, the content of the wiki was inappropriate and it is disappointing to see Wikia Inc employees continue to make statements about protecting the content and enthusiastically ensuring that the site lives on elsewhere, rather than clearly acknowledging that the site had breached their own T & Cs and was inappropriate, if not illegal.

    It simply shows that Wikia Inc are not capable of the moral leadership that a prominent organisation should give, and it demeans free speech/freedom of expression to disguise it as such an issue.


    4 Feb 08 at 3:10 pm

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    Live Dominant

    10 Mar 10 at 6:01 pm

  8. you guys have it all wrong… the children aren’t the one’s being abused. These evil hobbit-like creatures try to attack the hands and paddles of the innocent caregivers, with their posteriors. Those sick bastards should be imprisoned for their unforgivable abuse of wood, not to mention the clearly illustrated assault on the parents hands.

    i CurbStomp Kittens

    12 Apr 10 at 8:39 pm

  9. Rosina Phegley

    7 Mar 12 at 2:55 am

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    16 Apr 12 at 8:48 pm

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    Abbie Deloy

    8 Jun 12 at 8:34 pm

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    21 Jan 13 at 12:36 am

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    14 Aug 13 at 2:48 pm

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