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Censorship Education The Internet

Chinese Ban on Wikipedia Prevents Research 439

Posted by Zonk
from the using-wikipedia-as-a-first-party-source dept.
An anonymous reader writes "China has banned access to Wikipedia for the third time, outraging students and intellectuals." From the article: "The latest blocking of the website, the third shutdown of the site in China in the past two years, has now continued for more than 10 weeks without any explanation and without any indication whether the ban is temporary or permanent ... Others said the blocking of Wikipedia has been a major blow to their research projects and even to their prospects of passing civil-service exams. 'How can I do my thesis now?' a university student asked on another Chinese website."
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Chinese Ban on Wikipedia Prevents Research

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:38PM (#14438757) Journal
    I guess we wait for another Tiananmen Square [wikipedia.org] to happen again. It kind of makes one wonder what exactly was accomplished in 1989 when 100,000 protesters marched in Beijing. Appearantly not much.

    While the U.S. is concerned with this [gwu.edu], maybe we should instead be concerned with that [hrichina.org]?

    Either way, if you're interested in what the U.S. is concerned about, maybe you should read documents made available by the Freedom of Information Act [gwu.edu].

    What are people supposed to do if they cannot free themselves from a suppressive government? It's not worth violence to be able to read wikipedia but it's clear that non-violent protests in the past did very little.
    • by biocute (936687) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:47PM (#14438883) Homepage
      I believe China has had its fair share of violent protests (which usually led to revolution and overturn of a government) throughout its history.

      What I'm trying to say is, What shall be can be the is of what was - Lao Fu Tzu
      • by metternich (888601) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:19PM (#14440643)
        China has had several thousand protests a year for the last few years and they're getting more numerous. They're only getting scant attantion in the Western media though, since it's mostly poor people protesting poor wages, unsafe working conditions, corrupt officials, government abuses, etc., rather than media savy students fighting for democracy.
    • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:55PM (#14438990) Homepage
      I don't know if China as we know it is more doomed by their absurd governmental policies, or by the fact that their uyounger generation's research seems to depend on the archived wisdom of random people on the street. I'll grant Wikipedia is getting better, but (a) to depend on it as a primary source of scholarship at this point is absurd and (b) even in China, especially at universities, there are other options.

      Unless one's thesis is on the Wikipedia, anyone depending oslely on Wikipedia for research needs a reality slap.
      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:59PM (#14439050) Journal
        Unless one's thesis is on the Wikipedia, anyone depending oslely on Wikipedia for research needs a reality slap.

        I don't think it's really fair for you to say something like this unless you live in China and get along fine with the suppression of websites.

        Afterall, I've found very helpful things on Wikipedia. I just wrote a Hidden Markov Model using the Viterbi Algorithm and did it from scratch in Java using WordNet and this page [wikipedia.org]. Am I saying I could write a paper off of Wikipedia? No, but when that's all you have to work with, it may be more important than you think.
        • I don't think it's really fair for you to say something like this unless you live in China and get along fine with the suppression of websites.

          [...]

          Am I saying I could write a paper off of Wikipedia? No, but when that's all you have to work with, it may be more important than you think.

          Anyone else think this could be the Intelligent Design Manifesto? After all, if all one has is the Book of Genesis from which to teach biology... or, for that matter, videos of "The 700 Club" from which to teach Modern Wes

        • by pla (258480) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:50PM (#14439652) Journal
          I don't think it's really fair for you to say something like this unless you live in China and get along fine with the suppression of websites.

          Do you live in the US?

          Can you legally visit child porn sites (or if certain people have their way, ANY porn sites in the near future)?

          Oh, but that breaks the law, you no doubt protest... Well, guess who writes the law? The government. And China has one of those as well, to write their laws.

          But perhaps you'd prefer a more "fair" comparison? Okay...

          Can you go download Grokster? Visit I2Hub? LokiTorrent? Run the original Napster client (successfully)?

          All societies have taboos, and all societies believe that those taboos protect either all of society or the target of the taboo. Sometimes that holds true, and sometimes it does not.

          In the US, we believe in practically ANYTHING justified by "for the kids". We believe corporate profit and domestic security trump personal freedoms. We believe we have quite a lot of rights that the courts regularly laugh out of court.

          China believes certain religious, political, and economic philosophies constitute a grave danger to their society. And actually, they have that correct, in that at least on the political and economic front, those banned ideas will eventually destroy their existing government. But if you replace "democracy" with "theocracy", "Falun Gong" with "Radical Islam", and "capitalism" with "socialism", can Americans really claim themselves as so much more enlightened?
          • by NotoriousQ (457789) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:11PM (#14439861) Homepage
            Can you legally visit child porn sites (or if certain people have their way, ANY porn sites in the near future)?

            No, I can not.

            Is it legal for the government to place filters in place so that I can not find them?

            No, it is not.

            Is it legal for the government to take down those site, and arrest the owners?

            Yes, it is.

            Can you go download Grokster? Visit I2Hub? LokiTorrent? Run the original Napster client (successfully)?

            Yes, from p2p networks, quite legally too.
            Probably not any more (unless I2hub is decentralized).
            Do not know what lokitorrent is. I suppose it is down.
            No, it is down.

            Is any of it due to government cencorship?
            No.

            Please be careful distinguishing government intervention and bulk censorship (as opposed to personal responsibility) with perfectly sane laws quite endorsed by the society.

            Is it legal to commit murder? No
            Is it legal to threaten with murder? No
            Is it legal to think about murder? Yes

            Cencorship begins only when that last question has to be answered with a "no".
            • Is it legal for the government to place filters in place so that I can not find them?

              We'll have to wait for the rather conservative USSC to decide on Utah's most recent attempt to do exactly that, before we can say "no".


              Is it legal for the government to take down those site, and arrest the owners?

              Which differs how from China taking down sites and arresting people who blog about any of a number of banned subjects?

              Oh, right... Because our hangups express the highest degree of enlightenment possible
            • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:40PM (#14440921)
              Is any of it due to government cencorship?
              No.


              Of course it is. The government censors child pornography. You can't view it, you can't dispplay it, you can't trade it. What else would you call this besides censorship?

              Please be careful distinguishing government intervention and bulk censorship (as opposed to personal responsibility) .

              So if it isn't done "bulk," it isn't censorship? What about broadcast TV, isn't that censored? Don't the networks have to pass their material by censors before they can put it on the air? Should we change their job title because you are uncomfortable with the fact that the US government employs censorship to some degree? You might argue that the networks hire their own censors, but what rules do you think the censors go by... the FCC, right?

              with perfectly sane laws quite endorsed by the society

              From what I understand, "bulk" censorship is quite endorsed by the majority of the Chinese population. Just as censorship of child pornography is quite endorsed by the majority of the US population.

              Is it legal to commit murder? No
              Is it legal to threaten with murder? No
              Is it legal to think about murder? Yes

              Cencorship begins only when that last question has to be answered with a "no".


              Hardly. Even the Chinese are allowed to think about the things that are censored. They might be oppressed, but they don't quite have thought police yet.

              -matthew
              • by stor (146442) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @08:51PM (#14442025)
                The government censors child pornography. You can't view it, you can't dispplay it, you can't trade it. What else would you call this besides censorship?

                Child pornography (as a product) requires commiting heinous crimes to produce it.

                Even if you were just a "consumer" of it and didn't produce it yourself, you'd still be supporting those who are commiting sexual crimes against children.

                It's a very different situation than, say, banning a violent/sexually explicit game.

                Cheers
                Stor
                • Child pornography (as a product) requires commiting heinous crimes to produce it.

                  Even if you were just a "consumer" of it and didn't produce it yourself, you'd still be supporting those who are commiting sexual crimes against children.

                  What if it is pirated kiddie porn and no money changes hands. Would it be OK then? I doubt it. Not by the law.

                  Look, I'm not saying censoring kiddie porn isn't justifiable. I'm just pointing out that it is still censorship.

                  It's a very different situation than, say, banning a vi
          • by warkda rrior (23694) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:34PM (#14440086) Homepage
            [...] if you replace [...] "Falun Gong" with "Radical Islam" [...] can Americans really claim themselves as so much more enlightened?

            This parallel kills your whole argument.

            Falun Gong has not killed anyone and, as far as I know, does not promote killing people who do follow Falun Gong. On the other hand, Radical Islam has killed people and continuously promotes killing the "infidels" who do not believe in Radical Islam.

            Apples... oranges...

      • I think your missing the point (or I'm reading to much into it). China is denying citizens access to information that it can't censor itself.

        Sure a student could go read a regular encyclopedia, but what good is it if the goverment took all the "good" information out of it before he had a chance to read it?
      • except for all those studies that point out that wikipedia is, on average, very close in quality to Britannica...
    • Remember the tanks (Score:4, Insightful)

      by matt me (850665) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:56PM (#14439004)
      Excuse me, think back to that guy, standing in the path of the line of tanks, and stopping them. Even if it accomplished nothing locally, that has to be one of THE most touching images of the last century, that has inspired thousands to get up stand up for their rights.
      • Excuse me, think back to that guy, standing in the path of the line of tanks, and stopping them. Even if it accomplished nothing locally, that has to be one of THE most touching images of the last century, that has inspired thousands to get up stand up for their rights.

        You're excused.

        But certainly you can think of more moving moments than that. What about the buddhist monk who set himself on fire in public to protest Vietnam?

        I'm not saying anyone should go to that length. I'm just saying if he onl

        • I don't think many of us would consider burning ourselves as a form of protest even if the situation was useless. Hum was he inspired by the Rage cover :P
    • by edunbar93 (141167) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:59PM (#14439047)
      It kind of makes one wonder what exactly was accomplished in 1989 when 100,000 protesters marched in Beijing. Appearantly not much.

      Oh no, there was *lots* accomplished by this protest, and the massacre that ensued.

      The Chinese government proved to its citizenry that There Are Certain Things You Will Not Talk About.

      The Chinese government proved to the rest of the world that it doesn't give a rat's ass what anyone else thinks about how They Run Their Country.

      The American (and Canadian, and probably others too) government proved that they will walk on eggshells around the issue of free speech and human rights with China in order to get lucrative trade deals.

      The Chinese government basically proved that not only can they crush dissent in *their* country, but in others too.
      • China has the power to plunge the world into violent chaos, if it does not get its way, and if its needs are not met.

        What would you have the U.S. government do? Forsake peace and prosperity and an incremental approach to reforming China, in favor of cutting them off, putting their backs against a wall, and taking us all straight to World War IV?

        I mean, it's an option, of course. Is it your option?

        The fact is, China has been reforming incrementally even since before Tiananmen Square. They know what's going
        • by msauve (701917)

          China has the power to plunge the world into violent chaos, if it does not get its way, and if its needs are not met. What would you have the U.S. government do? Forsake peace and prosperity and an incremental approach to reforming China, in favor of cutting them off, putting their backs against a wall, and taking us all straight to World War IV?

          -Susano Otter, 1/10/2006

          We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two c

    • Yes, 100,000 marched. But how does that pale to the other ~999,900,000. Some people are willing to stand up, but until many, MANY more are willing, the situation will stay the same. Marches rarely contain the majority of people, and often only the most radical. In a population with 1 billion people, 100,000 protesters is only ~0.01% of the people. Until more of them stand up for themselves (if that's even what they want), there's very little that can be done to change China.
    • I guess we wait for another Tiananmen Square [wikipedia.org] to happen again.


      I would like to know what this "Tiananmen Square" is, but alas, your links lead to Wikipedia.

      Signed,

      An Inquisitive Chinese 'Net User
  • Soap, Ballot, Ammo; yes, of course.
    Unfortunately the first use must often be in reverse order.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Others said the blocking of Wikipedia has been a major blow to their research projects and even to their prospects of passing civil-service exams. 'How can I do my thesis now?' a university student asked on another Chinese website."

      Soap, Ballot, Ammo; yes, of course.

      Unfortunately the first use must often be in reverse order.

      There is a more peaceful solution - just go to the friging library and READ (oh, but that's too hard. I can't just google for the "good bits" - I'll have to read everything IN

      • That depends, of course, on what they are researching. Perhaps they are researching Wikipeida itself, or the social construct that supports collaborative systems.

        Both would make valid, and interesting, topics for a Masters/Phd thesis.
      • From one doing real research, I have to say that the web is far more useful than most libraries when dealing with an esoteric subject or problem. I stopped by my library yesterday looking for some information on a number theory proof I'm constructing. They had nothing, and this is the best library in a sizable portion of New Jersey. All of the useful information I've found so far has come from the web - and it's just about enough to complete the proof with.

        There are no grades in this sort of research. An

        • My point was that blocking wikipedia wasn't the end of the world.

          The end result of blocking the "Cliff's Notes of the Internet" will probably be an improvement in chinese research relative to the rest of the world.

          Last i looked, wikipedia != Teh IntarWeb :-)

    • That isn't the approach Eisenhower took with the Soviets. His idea was that to compete globally, they must educate themselves, and that would "sow the seeds of their own destruction." (meaning the destruction of communism). It did.

      It is interesting to know this and see all the Chinese students enrolled in our American universities. I think it is just a matter of time--"holding the line" as Eisenhower called it.
  • by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:40PM (#14438784)
    I do enjoy using Wikipedia for day-to-day use but I would not have used it for either of my Masters Thesis' as I don't think either oral defense committee would have accepted Wiki as an authoritative source. Perhaps that is different from school to school. Still, I wonder about the student puzzling how he/she will finish a thesis. I would suggest using mostly journal articles.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That wikipedia blamed John Seigenthaler for the Tiananmen Square conspiracy.
  • then one has to question the quality of Chinese degrees.
    • then? If you haven't been questioning the quality of chinese degrees until now ...
    • I agree, Wikipedia is not a source for scholarship. (The concept and application are not reliable to that end.) I disagree that a thesis cannot depend upon Wikipedia.

      Wikipedia can be used as an object of scholarship - to inquire about the successfulness of collaboration on the Internet, the evolution of articles over time, and as a case study for any number of things. Wikipedia can be studied and it is a fascinating phenomena - NPOV vs. POV debates, mechanism of accountability (such as they
  • Quality Graduates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by biocute (936687)
    Does that mean China is serious about competing with the world, thus imposing the ban to ensure quality graduates in the future?
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:43PM (#14438834) Homepage Journal
    They may have blocked wikipedia, but they still have the uncyclopedia [uncyclopedia.org] as a backup, so they should be good to go on their research- especially considering today's WotD [uncyclopedia.org];-)
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:44PM (#14438843)
    Using a satellite modem or Satmodem [emitor.se], you can bypass the censors.
    Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_modem [wikipedia.org]
    Or, maybe not.

    For anyone who can read this in China...try http://www.zensur.freerk.com/ [freerk.com]
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:45PM (#14438864) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia has been a major blow to their research projects...

    Unless their researching social networking and open content systems that's really sad. I can't believe the content on Wikipedia should serve as a very significant source to any research other than to it's social influences. That would be like saying Britannica was a major source for a research project... that couldn't possibly be taken seriously.

    It's certainly a blow to free speech. But if this hurts any unrelated research projects those projects should find much better sources anyway.
    • Unless their researching social networking and open content systems that's really sad. I can't believe the content on Wikipedia should serve as a very significant source to any research other than to it's social influences. That would be like saying Britannica was a major source for a research project... that couldn't possibly be taken seriously.

      I think that is exactly right. Neither Britannica, Wikipedia or any encyclopedia type publication should be used as a primary source or even to verify information
  • by khaledh (718303) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:47PM (#14438885)
    How can I do my thesis now? a university student asked on another Chinese website.

    How did all grad students complete their theses before the Wikipedia era? As a matter of fact, grads don't refer to encyclopedias when doing research. They refer more often to the literature (books, scientific journals, conference proceedings, etc.)

    There's even sites dedicated to research literature. Try CiteSeer http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/ [psu.edu], or even Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com/ [google.com].

    Of coures Wikipedia can help a lot when you want to have a quick reference on subject matter, but there are also much more comprehensive avenues of research that can be used.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:54PM (#14438974)
    Wikipedia is a great source of information for research papers, specifically the Wikipedia citations. Wikipedia allows a broad overview of a subject, which is helpful in guiding the author, but overall its principle value is a collection of relevant, human-verified links, many of which lead to primary authorities on the subject matter.

    I almost always head to Wikipedia before Google when doing research, for this reason. (I work in SEO, by the way)
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@optRABB ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:54PM (#14438979) Journal

    Every government official in China editing a Wikipedia entry - talk about re-writing history! Perhaps Wikipedia should be blocking China.

  • by hosecoat (877680) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:57PM (#14439021) Homepage
    "'How can I do my thesis now?' a university student asked on another Chinese website."

    China's response was to block the 'other Chinese website' as well.

  • by dclydew (14163) <dclydew@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:58PM (#14439033)
    There seems to be a common theme in cop and detective stories... young hero that wants to use the latest technology to solve crimes and an old grizzled cop that says something like "In the end, you only solve crimes by hitting the pavement and asking questions".

    It seems that the advice could apply in many areas. The Internet and its features may be great tools... but in the end, if you're trying to honestly research something, nothing beats cracking some books and reading, comprehending and putting it all together. Wikipedia should not be a critical resource for anyone but blog commenters, and then only because speed and words that sound authoritative seem more in demand than facts.

  • by gfxguy (98788) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:04PM (#14439126)
    I already know the answer is money, but why do we continue to do business with China when we boycott Cuba and N. Korea? When was the last time Cuba made one of our planes crash and held it captive? When was the last time N. Korea did that? Why is it so important for Yahoo, Google, and MS to continue to kowtow to China? Do these companies have no ethics?

    Why do people in the U.S. buy cheap American flags made in China?

    The whole thing disgusts me, and it has nothing to do with left/right, democrats/republicans - they all love the open policy towards China.
  • If Wikipedia is a major resource to a student writing a thesis, their intellectual community has WAY bigger problems than mere freedom of speech on the Internet issues.

    This is so ludicrous that methinks a Wikipedia advocate is trying to create a bit of artificial drama.

  • by jacoplane (78110) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:05PM (#14439136) Homepage Journal
    See the article on Internet censhorship in China [wikipedia.org] too. It's probably articles like this that have the Chinese Govt annoyed. However, I would agree with the article that by blocking off access they are pretty much ensuring that articles such as this will have a more western-oriented tilt. Of course, Wikipedia has a policy of NPOV [wikipedia.org], which should allow both criticism and supporting viewpoints. If there's one thing I've learned about the Chinese govt from seeing how they handled SARS and the recent factory disaster, it's that this kind of transparency is something they cannot get to grips with.
  • Why not use an anonymous proxy or archive.org?
  • There is always the reliable uncylopedia [uncyclopedia.org] for real reputable research.

    Uncyclopida is so politically correct [uncyclopedia.org] that I am sure the chinesse government would approve.

  • I can see why the Chinse have blocked it, given the content is community dirreved and mainly from external sources outside china. As such it woudl be a conciren for them given there nature of possible decent.

    No all that said, us in the western world look at this act as total cencorship and were right it is. But that is how China opperates, so we should count ourselves lucky.

    All that said, I cant see why some local folks over in china cant start there own wiki. there is enough interlectual scrape artists
  • by potus98 (741836) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:24PM (#14439963) Journal

    Instead of blatently blocking the Wikipedia site, couldn't it be more effective for the communists to update the content of the articles to refelct more positiviely on China and their policies?

  • No problem (Score:3, Funny)

    by PMuse (320639) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:31PM (#14440053)
    'How can I do my thesis now?' a university student asked on another Chinese website.

    Answer: the same way they did theses way back in 2000. Unless, of course, Wikipedia was in some way the subject of this poor unfortunate's research, in which case he is well and truly screwed. If so, he needs to pay a visit to Droz.

    Droz: Okay, what's your major?
    Supplicant1: - Um, particle physics.
    Droz: - Ooh, that's a tough one. Let me see... Ooh. "Motion of Helium Atoms In An Excited State." Watch out. It's a scorcher.

    Droz: - Next.
    Supplicant1:- Uh, Sanskrit.
    Droz: Sanskrit. You're majoring in a 5000-year-old dead language.
    Supplicant2: Yeah.
    Droz: Okay... Ooh. Latin. It's the best I can do.

    Droz: - Next.
    Supplicant3:- Phys Ed.
    Droz: Phys Ed. Okay, you're out of my room. Seriously. Get out.

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