Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Chinese Ban on Wikipedia Prevents Research

Comments Filter:
  • 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 LionMage (318500) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:02PM (#14439091) Homepage
    he makes us use a crummy encyclopedia that isn't checked for accuracy like Wikipedia is such as Britanica.

    Are you serious?

    First of all, I can't imagine a college professor letting you get away with citing an encyclopedia at all. The whole point of doing college assignments is learning to use primary sources of information. This isn't high school!

    Secondly, Britannica has much better fact checking than Wikipedia. The fact that some Wikipedia articles have glaring errors that don't get caught and corrected for months at a stretch is bad; some of these errors are the result of intentional vandalism, and unless you've been living under a rock the last few months, you're no doubt aware that some of this vandalism is in fact libel. I'd link to the Slashdot coverage of the most famous of these events, but it looks like you need a refresher course in doing basic research...

    Don't assume that just because Wikipedia is being scanned by a bunch of eyeballs every day, that Wikipedia must automatically be better fact-checked. Not every reader of Wikipedia is an expert, so not every reader is qualified to make revisions or write authoritatively on the "facts" presented. Furthermore, not all articles on Wikipedia are checked equally; the more popular articles get more eyeballs than the obscure articles.
  • 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.
  • by GoodOmens (904827) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:08PM (#14439166) Homepage
    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?
  • by dpiven (518007) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:48PM (#14439631) Homepage
    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 Western Religion...
  • 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".
  • 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?

  • by LionMage (318500) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:24PM (#14439964) Homepage
    Wikipedia's accuracy and Britannica's accuracy were pretty similar on well-researched and popular topics

    I quoted the above snippet from your comment to amplify a point -- what about the Wikipedia articles that aren't as popular and aren't as well-researched? At least with more traditional encyclopedias like Britannica, there's a certain minimum standard of fact checking and research that goes into each article before it is included. I don't think the same can be said for Wikipedia.

    And, as I've said elsewhere, Britannica doesn't have a problem with vandalism.

    This isn't to say that I don't find Wikipedia useful... just not authoritative from an academic standpoint.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @05:55PM (#14440356)
    They haven't blocked my conversations or my ability to learn about these ideas but yes the patriot act is bull. Good thing both the media and I are allowed to publicly criticize it. Maybe next time around it won't be renewed.
  • by XMilkProject (935232) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:01PM (#14440440) Homepage
    You make an invalid point. These things are kept secret not to keep the government from being brought down, but to keep Americans from getting killed. Do you really think anyone just feels the need to spy for their own benefit? How does it benefit them? They are spying to try to keep people alive, not to benefit themselves.

    Feel free to argue that their methods are flawed, as they very likely are, but it certainly is not done to protect the government in the way that Chinese censorship is, but rather the people.

    I'm completely baffled by this American feeling that no government department should keep secrets from the general public. I guess our American media has started this sentiment. But /. readers of all people should understand that much of the general public is incapable of dealing with various types of information. And apart from that, you must remember that it's not possible to just share information with Americans, anything that we are told is also told to the entire rest of the world.
  • 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
  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @06:47PM (#14441002)
    Two words: exit visa. You can't leave unless they let you. The government controls the transportation in and out, and if they don't want to let you out, they don't. It's not as bad as the Soviet's iron curtain (ie they don't generally shoot you if you try to escape by land), but they definitely don't make it easy.

    And where are they going to go? Most countries have the PRC on a list of "countries whose citizens we don't want". In order to emigrate, you need to have somewhere willing to accept you, otherwise you just get shipped back to the people who didn't want you to leave in the first place. The situation in China isn't considered bad enough that you could claim refugee status (usually requires proof that you would be killed if you were sent back instead of merely jailed for life, and realistically, China isn't on the Darfur scale of bad. I'm not saying it's not bad, just that there are worse, and our refugee laws tend to be oriented to rescuing people from the worst, not from the bad).

    And totalitarian governments like China are notoriously good at communal punishment: are you going to flee the country if you know it means your entire extended family will be jailed or executed? Or even just lose their jobs and end up living on the street? Or are you going to try to smuggle 20 people including children and the elderly out and hope for the best?
  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xenocide2 (231786) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @07:06PM (#14441201) Homepage
    Well, I'll take on your bear of a question. Keep in mind that I don't particularly favor China's administration or its policies.

    First off, according to the CIA World factbook, China's population is about 1.5 billion. This is out of about 6.5 billion world wide. Their unemployment rate is about ten percent nationally, with a reported "unemployment and underemployment rate" at twice that. I think its safe to say that very few of these people have the weath required to simply leave. Also remember that few Chinese have the kind of means access to the internet you have in the first place. I don't just mean unfiltered content, but a physical computer and stable and affordable electricity to power it. Of course, this isn't the only means of censoring dissent. Newspapers are frequently accused of whitewashing and publishing only approved content. But even if 1 billion Chinese who felt oppressed and/or unserved by the current authorities wanted and could afford to migrate, it would be difficult to accomodate them. Putting these people to work, in say France, would be difficult since few would have the language skills nessecary, among other things. Shifting that many people is simply untenable in the short term.

    Furthermore, even if nations had the available housing and whatnot to accomodate this, many are unwilling to accept large numbers of immigrants. The nation most able to accommodate Chinese immigrants is probably the US, as we've got plenty of land and are a next exporter of food. But I'm sure you've witnessed the backlash to border patrolling and outsourcing lately. Protectionist laws favoring the current labor pool are a large force to recon with and would quickly moblize to squash any such mass immigration bill in Congress. Additionally, the current administration seems paralyzed, in a way, by the terrorist attacks on the WTC. Because such a immigration allowance would be considered a security risk, theres no way the administration would ever propose this. Hell, even student visas are down after 9/11, as some of the attackers were here on visas. It seems some people love America's prosperity, and others love it's freedom, but nobody will trade one to give the other to everyone.

    In the long term, the best option is to reform China's pratices. Theoretically, China has democratic means to address social problems. In some ways, the authoritarian executive branch (unelected, btw) is an ally of change, and an enemy. For example, take the number from the CIA world factbook for China's male to female birth rate. 115:100 is a pretty damn high number, and you probably know why. Wikipedia suggests that a recent finding thinks its partly to do with hepatitis, but there's still a cultural bias against having a daughter. The Chinese administration has taken a couple of good steps towards solving the problem of infanctide. On the otherhand, the administration also takes very poorly to criticism of its policies, and allowing the public to hear it. I subscribe to the John Stuart Mill's philosophy that both truth and opinion are public goods, and look forward to the day in which the administration submits to the democratic process as well. But I expect that as long as their economy is doing better, there won't be any leverage for that to happen. There's still humanitarian things that could be addressed, but perhaps we should look in the mirror before preaching abroad.

    Simply put, people deserve a government that acts in their own interests without having to resort to democracy of the foot.
  • 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

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

Working...