Wikipedia, the information portal and considered the savior of mankind at times, has run into some trouble in China. This non-profit encyclopedia which is being hailed by the masses for authenticating their research and mostly by students who want their homework or projects done state that it is a life saver. Recently it is under pressure from China’s government, as China plans to move towards being more controlling over the Internet flow in China.
Knowledge and education is a human right
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia stated adamantly that he would rather not have Wikipedia in China than to allow the governments interference to censor. He was found quoting that the access to knowledge and education is a human right and no government should limit or restrain anyone from doing so. Following this he stated in a conference in Hong Kong that the company will keep on refusing demands for providing access to government to block or control the flow of information.
The Great Firewall
China’s Great Firewall has blocked access to the encrypted version of Wikipedia where users could have access to the website without having any filters in place. Now users can only access the encrypted one which limits the access of political articles and keyword filtering is quite prominent. This outraged the web activists who have been demanding Wikipedia to switch to encrypted servers whereby users could not be tracked and no filter would need to be placed while browsing. If Wikipedia goes ahead with this move then the government authorities would be forced to block Wikipedia outright and would mean the end of the unencrypted version as well.
Mr Wales was found to be pondering such an idea but stated that the company had limitations in China which led to technical capabilities limitation in the country. However he strongly stated that the unencrypted version would not be allowed to shut down at all and he is not particularly scared of any hack attempts as Wikipedia does not hold financial data and neither does it involve itself in any malicious activity. He believes that such threats of hacking Wikipedia are futile and do not scare them off easily. Accessing information is everyone’s right.
Wikipedias past has been troubled and this is not a first situation for the the company. Beijing had imposed several bans on the website which lasted from 2005 to 2007 but had to be lifted. It looks like they needed Wikipedia. However due to a strained relationship between China and Wikipedia, other startups have seized this opportunity to profit and set up their own shop. Local players such as Baidu, Inc., has been dominating the Chinese market landscape and features its own Chinese-language search engine. The Chinese-language Wikipedia, which includes entries from Hong Kong and Taiwan, was established more than a decade ago, and currently has more than 700,000 articles.
Talks going on
The company is in talks with the Chinese government and there is hope for some settlement or middle ground and Wikipedia does not expect to be blocked overnight without warning. “We don’t approve of filtering, but there is nothing we can do to stop it,” he said.
“We are quite uncompromising in our position on access to knowledge as a fundamental right, and of course the Chinese government is fairly firm on its own views,” he said