Your first answer might be “nothing at all”, but that is not entirely true. Both Amazon and wikipedia.org host an image of the album cover of the Virgin Killer album by The Scorpions. The image has been on Amazon.com for at least 10 months and on wikipedia.org since april 2007, but somehow it’s become big news all over the internet since access to Wikipedia was blocked in parts of the UK because it was hosting the image.
The Guardian first wrote about the copy of the image at Amazon.com yesterday:
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is reviewing its decision to list as “child pornography” the image on one version of the album “Virgin Killer” by the rock band The Scorpions hosted on Wikipedia – and might yet add Amazon US to its list of “blocked” sites for hosting the picture.
Amazon didn’t take any chances and no longer shows the image, but at the time of writing the image was still available on their servers. But Amazon doesn’t actually risk being blocked: the system used in the UK forces traffic to sites that contain suspicious images through a proxy server that only blocks access to the specific image and/or URL that links to the image. This is a bit inconvenient for Wikipedia, but shouldn’t cause too many problems for Amazon.
The article at the Guardian does provide some interesting information about the Internet Watch Foundation:
A team of four police-trained “analysts” plough through 35,000 URLs sent to them each year that are under suspicion of being obscene. […] That works out to an average of 700 per week, or 140 per working day, or 35 per working day per analyst – giving each an average workload for a seven-hour day of 5 URLs per hour. Typically about one-third of the URLs are deemed illegal.
The Scorpions image was deemed to be “1 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least offensive”, said Robertson. The image was judged to be “erotic posing with no sexual activity”. It depicts a young naked girl with her genitals obscured by a crack in the camera lens.
Right. An image that depicts “erotic posing with no sexual activity” is blocked in most of the UK? And they only get 35.000 of those in an entire year? Here’s an idea: let’s turn the content rating system into mturk HITs. If you pay everyone that categorizes an image $0.05, and verify the ratings by having at least 5 people rank it, that would result in a cost of $0.25 per image, or $8.750 per year.
Update: The IWF has a statement about the blocking of Wikipedia. It looks like Amazon is safe:
Following representations from Wikipedia, IWF invoked its Appeals Procedure and has given careful consideration to the issues involved in this case. The procedure is now complete and has confirmed that the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.
Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted abroad, will not be added to the list. Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted in the UK will be assessed in line with IWF procedures.
Update 2: Google has decided to point people looking for a high-resolution version of the Virgin Killer album cover this way. Here’s a hint: Google Images. The largest scan currently available is this one (mirror); higher resolutions have yet to appear.