Wikipedia:NOTCENSORED and the Main Page
|This page is an essay, containing the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
The Main Page is the front cover to our encyclopaedia. It is a representation of who we are, what we do and what we have done. As it is arguably the most important page on Wikipedia, the Main Page is fully protected to prevent anyone defacing our front cover. Most Wikipedians are aware of the often cited WP:NOTCENSORED, which states:
|“||In particular, when a cited quotation contains words that may be offensive, it should not be censored. Words and images that would be considered offensive, profane, or obscene by typical Wikipedia readers should be used if and only if their omission would cause the article to be less informative, relevant, or accurate, and no equally suitable alternatives are available.||”|
This is effective at ensuring our articles remain neutral—it allows us to report freely on the actions of authoritarian governments and crafty PR firms—but when it comes to the Main Page, the policy falls down.
Why we should censor the Main Page
The Main Page is our front cover, and we shouldn't be forcing away people before they even get into the articles. There are around 7 million page views of the Main Page every day, most of which are people with no interest in looking at articles relating to pornography or gore. They haven't seen a disclaimer page, as most people never read the manual, and do not expect nor want to be shocked. We should make every attempt to remain neutral and uncensored in our articles, as per WP:NOTCENSORED. The Main Page, however, is not an article, and removal of clearly offensive content is showing editorial restraint and maturity as a project.
Having 'fuck' may not offend many of the internet-savvy editors that make up the Wikipedia community, but it still does offend many. While having the word in a neutral manner that is relevant is unlikely to cause a massive uproar, using the word deliberately in an immature manner in an attempt to be funny will. Most print dictionaries have profanity in them, yet the words are treated with the same impartiality and neutral tone as any other. On Wikipedia, some editors have a tendency to be a little more 'shocking', and don't show the maturity needed for being a Wikipedia editor.
Sex and violence
The easiest way to offend on the internet, however, is not words but pictures. Pictures of BDSM or autofellatio are highly likely to be offensive, and are riding the fine line of being pornography. Gory pictures such as autopsies or anything involving copious amounts of blood should also be used with caution, as not everyone has watched enough CSI episodes to become desensitized to violence.
Given the number of people, particularly minors, viewing the Main Page, putting porn or pictures of gore there would be unnecessarily inflammatory. We should have the articles, and have them as illustrated as necessary, but we don't need to advertise it for the whole world to see.
When to censor
Obviously, there is a need to draw a line in the sand, to decide what is and what isn't too offensive for the Main Page. A picture of Muhammed may not offend non-Muslims, but causes uproar in Muslim countries. Pictures of lolicon may offend some Wikipedia readers, but not be any concern for someone from Japan.
Each situation should be judged on its merits, and there shouldn't be a blanket rule that says "fuck is banned" or "no pictures of breasts". Similarly, we shouldn't champion WP:NOTCENSORED as a free pass for anything to get on the Main Page. We just need to recognise that while our articles are not censored, there is a line.
When we censor our articles as a whole, we become less reliable, less accurate and less neutral, flying right in the face of our goals of becoming a great encyclopaedia. When we censor the Main Page, on the other hand, we still have the uncensored article, we are still accurate and we maintain our neutrality. The only thing that happens is that the author doesn't receive a tag for the talk page. What's the point of offending many for little benefit?
- Icelandic Phallological Museum, an article about a penis museum that was once featured on the main page
- Wikipedia talk:Did you know/Archive 47#Appropriate for the main page?
- Wikipedia talk:Did you know/Archive 27#Goat sex
- Wikipedia talk:Did you know/Archive 34#Pornography-related articles on DYK
- Wikipedia talk:Today's featured article/Archive 5#Stricter standards
- Wikipedia talk:Today's featured article/Archive 5#List of forbidden FAs?