This seems to be the prevailing theme over at Wikipedia, as we just heard from Mr. Godwin. Don't change the content, or you can be sued.
Certainly there are legal incentives to operate Wikipedia the way WMF does. It seems to me that those incentives have been discussed elsewhere in this forum. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides a strong framework for staying arm's-length away from from the addition or modification of content.
This never made any sense to me. I've been on plenty of websites where if you posted a nude pic the owners or moderators would charge in, tear down the pic, and warn or ban you.
So what is actually in the text of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act?
QUOTE(excerpt from Section 230)
Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2) Civil liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).
The way I interpret this is that it's ok to try to keep offensive pics off of your website, that the US Congress has your back on that, even if you're clumsy and stupid about it as Good Samaritans can be. It's also ok to implement technical features that enable users to screen out the porn themselves.
Maybe there are specific cases where the courts have behaved inconsistently, but I'm pretty tired of seeing Section 230 cited as a reason for the WMF not to do anything whatsoever to address the problems on the site. Section 230 clearly does not rationalize this behavior. Instead, it says practically the opposite, that responsible oversight of user-generated content is not to be used as an excuse to hold the service provider liable for the content itself.
Text of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act