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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 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.
  • Quality Graduates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by biocute (936687) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:42PM (#14438818) Homepage
    Does that mean China is serious about competing with the world, thus imposing the ban to ensure quality graduates in the future?
  • 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.
  • 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 tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @03:49PM (#14438912) Journal

    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 CONTEXT!)

    "Research" is not the same as a quick google or yahoo. Anyone caught depending entirely on cut-n-paste citations from the web deserves a zero, and only because you can-t award a lower mark.

  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@HORSEop ... 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:01PM (#14439072)
    Unfortunately for them guns are banned from private citizen(subject/serf) ownership.

    Thankfully in the US such totalitarizn attitudes towards gun ownership have not prevailed, except in NYC, Chicago, NJ, and California. Mostly pushed by power hungry and often hypocritical democrats who do not trust their constituents, yet pack concealed handguns of their own.

    Europe with the exception of Finland and Switzerland seems to have its head up its collective ass too.
  • by flyinwhitey (928430) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:04PM (#14439117)
    In cases like this there are always individuals that forget what's going on around them long enough to prove themselves idiots.

    It always struck me as funny how often the same people bitching about American imperialism conveniently forget their previous arguments when it comes to the internet in China.

    Sorry hypocrites, you can't have it both ways. China is a sovereign state, so while you may disagree, YOU have no right sticking your nose in their business, or spreading so-called "American values".

    And you can thank the left for that particular argument, because I stole it straight from an anti-war in Iraq website.
  • 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.
  • by programic (139404) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:14PM (#14439241)
    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 bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava@gT ... m minus caffeine> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:21PM (#14439324) Journal
    I dare sare you've hit on one of the most fundamental flaws in capitalism
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:25PM (#14439384)
    It doesn't matter anyway. The kinds of weapons that are legal for private citizens of the USA to own aren't going to overthrow any modern government. To think otherwise is self-delusion.
  • by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:31PM (#14439447) Journal
    "The Chinese seem to be okay without civil rights..." Tell that to my family, you sunvabitch. And there have been people like you before, "They don't need civil rights, they're black." Or "They shouldn't rush things like this, getting civil liberties is a process that takes time."

    There can be no happiness without freedom. You have no idea what it is like to know that if the police come knocking, you need to hand over a thousand yuan or a loved one disappears. You don't know what it means to have classmates beaten so badly they leave police stations brain damaged and half dead, with no recourse. You don't know what it's like when the state owned company you worked for for 30 years decide that it is not going to pay the heat in the winter and the heating company turns it off and will not turn the heat back on for any amount of money. You have no idea what it is like to be required by law to work 80 hour weeks because the company you are at has decided that it's employees can produce more. You don't know what it's like to listen to your daughter call, worried about the riots in your city, only to be told by state run media that there are not any.

    You seem to forget just how oppressive a Communist regime and a dictator can be. There is economic growth in China, and it is not trickling down. A few have become rich; most Chinese were better off sixty years ago under the KMT. All property and all rights in China are illusory.

    There is no freedom in China. There is no happiness in China.

  • by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:32PM (#14439462) Homepage
    The thing about death is, the only thing you can do about it is laugh.

    It's inevitable. What are you going to do? Spend your time moping about the end in store for you? Or live your life with verve and panache?

    "Was he inspired by the Rage cover"? Good stuff.

    Almost as good as that Fark p-shop showing the Vietnamese general holding a Starbucks coffee mug to the head of a captured Viet Cong guerrilla. That was comedy gold.
  • by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:49PM (#14439642) Homepage
    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 on. A lot of their policy is guided by a desire to meet their citizens' growing demands for freedom without plunging the country into the state of mafia-ruled anarchy that plagues the former Soviet Union today. They've learned a lot from Russia's rush to reform. The main lesson being: take it slow.

    I think a lot of their current crackdown on the Internet has to do with limiting their people's access to outside information that will whet their appetite for reforms: An appetite that cannot be swiftly fed, and that, once awakened will lead to violent uprisings if not immediately sated.

    I dunno. Maybe violent uprisings are the answer. And it's certain the people in power in China have their own best interests at heart, with the incremental approach.

    But I ask you, what would you do? Would you rather put China in a position where they have nothing to lose? That leads to war--nuclear war, most likely. Or would you rather use international commerce as a tool for applying both carrots and sticks to China, to encourage them to join the free world at their own pace, but join it nonetheless?

    If China was still relatively powerless (like, say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq), then I'd be all about a forcible regime change, and the sooner the better.

    But they're not.

    The fact is, you have no idea what kind of pressure is really being brought to bear on the Chinese government. You have no idea what kinds of things get discussed in those trade negotiations. You have no idea what kinds of factors come into play, that might influence Chinese government policy on a broad spectrum, as a result of engaging with them economically instead of isolating them.

    And you obviously have no idea what the potential ramifications of an isolationist policy with regard to China would be.

    Or do you? Maybe I have you all wrong, and you're some kind of expert Far East Asia SocioPolitial Analyst, who has it all figured out. If so, please point us to your scholarly papers, detailed analysis, and/or personal blog full of insightful commentary on the subject. Enlighten us, please: how do we go about isolating China to force a faster rate of reform, without forcing them into war, instead? In what material way would it differ in appearance from what the western powers are doing right now? Don't forget to account for all the other constraints, influences, boundaries, and assorted limitations that western politicians must work within, in order to bring this peaceful reform of China about (including, of course, the sad fact of human weakness both in elected officials and in the masses that elect them).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:10PM (#14439835)
    Why is it that whenever people bring up China, they bring up Tiananmen Square, but they never bring up Kent State [wikipedia.org]? Granted, it's not on quite the same scale, but it's still an example of the US government killing its own citizens.
  • by Gulthek (12570) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:23PM (#14439961) Homepage Journal
    I've seen happiness in China. I've seen happiness in Tibet. I've seen happiness in Xinjiang. I've seen happiness in Yunnan.

    I've talked to people on the street, I've talked to people in hutongs, I've talked to people in high-rise apartments.

    Maybe you should talk to them too.

    Things aren't perfect, they aren't even great in many places, but it certainly isn't a cultural revolution type situation over there anymore.

    The 20th century was brutal for China, but change doesn't happen overnight. In fact, a great deal of the problems came from change happening overnight.

    Would you really want China to go back to the chaos that she saw in the 1910s after the collapse of the Qing dynasty?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:27PM (#14440005)
    A government that would be brought down by mere public knowledge of international criticism and ideals has no right to stand.
  • by pla (258480) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:29PM (#14440034) Journal
    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, while China's come from ignorance and greed. Silly me.


    Is any of it due to government cencorship?

    Yes, actually, three of those four shut down as a result of GOVERNMENT intervention (and the fourth just from the threat thereof), because someone, somewhere, might use them to commit a victimless civil-penalties-only crime.


    perfectly sane laws quite endorsed by the society.

    Forgive me if I err, but that statement leads me to strongly suspect you of trolling...
  • 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...

  • by Hasai (131313) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:43PM (#14440200)
    Why is it, do you think, that every totalitatian regime that comes along seems to somehow automatically spawn an army of apologists?
  • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:16PM (#14440607)
    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 countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe...My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.
    -Neville Chamberlain, 9/30/1938
  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:37PM (#14440891)
    If some citizens in China hate it so bad because of the political situation, why not just leave China?

    You make the all-too-common incorrect assumption among young Americans that people in other countries have rights that are essentially similar to rights in the USA. In this case, you assume that a Chinese citizen has a right to be issued a passport the way Americans have.

    It's not as difficult to get a Chinese passport as it was 25 years ago. Nonetheless, passports are issued only at discretion. Basically, you apply to the police, and maybe you'll hear at some future date that you can come and pick up your passport. [The same is true in other Communist countries.]

    If you are on the police shit-list, you don't get a passport. It doesn't matter if you haven't been accused of any crime.

    Getting the passport is only the first step of your problems. There's also the small matter of affording foreign travel. The cost of foreign travel is way beyond the budget of the average Chinese. A foreign trip is an extravagance for the average American, who earns many times the income of the average Chinese. The cost of living is considerably cheaper in China than the USA, but the cost of foreign travel is the same.

    It may no longer be the case today, but in the past there was a limit as to how much money you could take with you for expenses, something like 100 yuan (about $12).

    The bottom line here is that foreign travel is a luxury of the privileged with overseas connections; if you don't have some "back door" you don't go.

    Now, as for emigrating from China to some other country, that's a lot more complex. The Chinese government see-saws between issuing passports to malcontents (in the hope that their trip will be one-way) and denying them. Even assuming you get out, there's a complex process that you have to take to get in to another country.

    If you're Chinese, Canada will sell you a permanent residency for a 6-digit sum. (White) Americans only have to badmouth the USA and its government, and the Canadian government will happily give them "landed immigrant" status. The USA government isn't so generous with its green cards.

    The most common way for Chinese to make it to the USA is to have a relative who is a US citizen and sponsors their way in.

    Pretty (or even average-looking) Chinese girls may try to marry an American boy; the problem is that there are plenty of yucky/abusive/immatures/etc. guys in that meat market. So, selecting a decent boy is quite difficult (sometimes his problems are not immediately obvious), especially if you have self-respect and actually intend to have a real marriage with him (and if you don't you have other problems because the INS is going to try to trip you up). There's a much smaller number of Chinese boys who try to marry American girls.

    If neither of those back-doors work, then if you're really bright you might get to come to the USA on a student visa (a lot of Chinese kids come, but a lot more try and fail; the competition is fierce). Then, once you're here, you go all the way on your education and hopefully by the time you're a post-doctoral student you've made enough contacts that some school or company will go to bat for you with INS to get you a green card.

    If you're a pretty girl, once you're in an American school you have a somewhat better selection of American boys to pick over, although you will have to deal with vicious criticism and bad-mouthing from other Chinese students. You can also pick a Chinese boy and make your parents happy, as long as he already has his back-door and doesn't intent to go back.

    It's a Darwinian process. Many try. Only a few succeed.
  • by manifoldronin (827401) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @07:01PM (#14441144)
    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.
    There goes down the toilet your whole argument - ideas destroying "their society" are not necessarily those that would destroy "their existing government". What's interesting is, it's usually a government that's afraid of being overthrown would attempt to sneak in and substitute the two words and make its citizens believe that "the government is the society."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @07:02PM (#14441158)
    Look, you don't get it do you? China says Falun Gong members have killed people

    http://un.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/52796.html [fmprc.gov.cn]

    China's a sovereign government. The US government passes laws against some crimes, so does China.

    Only in the US do people whine and moan about other governments whilst watching their own government execute children as grown adults

    The thing is, whiny middle class US kids' views of the world don't upset other countries' citizens one bit. When you realise that, you whine even more.

    Anyone involved in actual *work* abroad doesn't give a shit what you think. fuck off back to Penny Arcade.

    'On the other hand, Radical Islam has killed people'

    what the fuck is Radical Islam?

    'Apples... oranges...'

    Idiots, Americans - is there any difference anymore?

  • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @09:20PM (#14442239)
    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 violent/sexually explicit game.

    Different situation. Both censorship.

    -matthew
  • by misleb (129952) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @12:05PM (#14446073)
    It is not, because if I chose to do it, I can. I will be put in jail, but the government does not have a system in place to effectively prevent me.

    And the Chinese have ways of getting around website blocks using proxies and such. Are you saying that if there is some way aound the censorship, it isn't censorship? Perhaps it is a little more involved to get around teh Great Firewall, but it is certainly possible. You're really reaching here. I don't know why you are so loath to admit that the US government engages in censorship to some degree.

    BTW, I noticed that you conveniently snipped out my comments about broadcast TV censors. Why do you think they call them censors? Censorship doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing, ya know. There are all kinds of ways to limit and manipulate information to some end.

    Personal responsibility, not government censorship is preventing me from doing these things. Look at the murder example: the government is not censoring my ability to murder. I can think about it, I can accomplish it, I will likely end up a criminal. But censorship has not been involved.

    Bad example. Censorship generally deals with the dissemination of information, not actions. You can't really censor an action, per se.

    From what I understand, "bulk" censorship is quite endorsed by the majority of the Chinese population.

    No, it is not. Otherwise, there would be no people protesting the blocking mechanism. You do not see people protesting the child porn laws in the US, do you? (Yea, there are a few nuts probably, but nothing like an actual protest)


    People I've heard from who have lived in China seem to be under the impression that the bulk of the Chinese people support their government. China is a really big country. The few that are protesting represent a small minority. You might argue the people who are not protesting don't really know how horrible the government is because of censhorship and would probably be pretty disgusted if they know what was really going on, but the fact is that they support the government.

    As I am sure we all we be somewhat disgusted by our government if we knew what was REALLY going on behind closed doors. But we don't know. Besides profanities on broadcast TV and kiddie porn, there are many other things that the government does effectively prevent the people from knowing much about.

    Even the Chinese are allowed to think about the things that are censored.

    That's the problem. They are not. Sites have been taken down that criticize the Great Firewall.



    In what way does that stop them from thinking about these things? They know that a Great Firewall exists. What stops them from criticizing it in their own minds?

    -matthew

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