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Wikipedia No Longer Banned in China

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Almost one year to the day after the Chinese government placed a ban on both the English and Chinese-language versions of online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, both have been lifted.

As of this week it has been reported that the Chinese government has lifted the ban on the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia. This decision comes only one month after the government lifted the ban from Wikipedia’s English-language version in China. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia said “We don’t know what prompted the block and don’t know what prompted the unblock.”

Created in 2001, Wikipedia “has rapidly grown into the largest reference Web site on the Internet”, according to the website’s creators. Wikipedia’s content is free and users around the world can collaborate on different articles. The website itself is a “wiki”, which means that anyone with internet access can correct, edit, or add to any page on the site to improve upon the encyclopedia’s information.

The fact that users of the site can contribute their own knowledge and accounts of events may have led to the Chinese ban of Wikipedia in the first place.

Controversial information was made available to the Chinese public which the government did not want them viewing. Some of the material is still being blocked on the site even after the ban was taken off, such as Pro-Democracy articles like the ones from the 1989 movement and massacre in Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese-language Wikipedia website features more than 90, 000 articles, which are contributed mostly by Chinese citizens. However the percentage of Chinese citizens contributing to the site has gone down considerably as a result of the government-approved, more restricted encyclopedia, Baidupedia, which was created by search engine Baidu.

Baidu was, ironically, accused of lifting information from Wikipedia, sifting through only the information that they thought fit for the eyes of the Chinese people.

Baidu’s marketing director Bian Jiang claims, “The sharing of information is instrumental in the development and the continuity of knowledge. The act of sifting out relevant information and editing is in itself a process of information packaging,”

To see just how restricted Baidupedia actually is, I visited the site and searched for Tiananmen Square; the search yielded absolutely no results. There is no English-language version of this site, so I translated the entire Chinese-language website.

Wikipedia’s Chinese-language site did actually have some information of the Tiananmen Square “incident”, as they put it. The information is essentially written to say that some insolent students staged a Democratic protest and were killed; it neglects to mention that the students were un-armed.

Wikipedia is not the only company that had to choose between adhering to the censorship placed on their sites by the Chinese government, or risk losing access to the country all together. Reporters Without Borders has also criticized Yahoo! and Google for “yielding to the Chinese government’s censorship requests.”

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Autmn Davis is a staff writer for WebProNews covering ebusiness and technology.

Wikipedia No Longer Banned in China
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