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Wikipedia Blocks Qatar [Updated] 204

Posted by Hemos
from the the-law-of-unintended-consequenceas dept.
GrumpySimon writes "Wikipedia has blocked the entire country of Qatar from editing pages. Whilst the ban is due to spam-abuse coming from the IP address in question, the fact that this belongs to the country's sole high-speed internet provider has the unintended consequence of stopping Qataris from editing the wiki. The ban has raised concerns about impartiality — the majority of Al Jazeera journalists operate out of Qatar, for example. This raises a number of issues about internet connectivity in small countries — what other internet bottlenecks like this exist?" Update: 01/02 13:32 GMT by Z : Jim Wales wrote in the comments that the story is 'completely false'. Either way, the ban has been lifted and anonymous editing is once again possible from Qatar.
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Wikipedia Blocks Qatar [Updated]

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  • IPv6 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Watson Ladd (955755) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:32AM (#17421810)
    It's situations like this that should make small countries upgrade to IPv6. What surprises me is that they haven't already.
  • Impressive... (Score:5, Informative)

    by chazzf (188092) <cfulton AT deepthought DOT org> on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:36AM (#17421828) Homepage Journal
    That an entry from a block log is all it takes to make Slashdot these days. This also means that any concerns have, so far, been raised only in the head of the submitter. Note also that the block was re-tooled to allow account creation, so that only anonymous editing is prevented. Finally, the block is in place for one month, not indefinitely. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • by MoHaG (1002926) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:44AM (#17421876) Homepage

    If Wikipedia's information on the linked page is correct, the reason that the entire Qatar is blocked, is that it is the ip of a proxy server...

    It is common practice for ISP's in countries with limited bandwidth to transparently proxy all HTTP traffic in order to save bandwidth

    South Africa's SAIX [wikipedia.org] does the same. However they have several proxy servers doing load sharing, which cause even more problems with sites that associate session information with one's IP. Online games preventing the trading of items by users on the same IP is also problematic.

    Sites offering access on an alternative port in addition to 80 would offer a solution.

  • summary wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fëanáro (130986) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:52AM (#17421906)
    Wikipedia has blocked anonymous contributions from one IP, which happens to be a proxy from that country.
    Users can still edit wikipedia throught this proxy by creating an account and logging in.

    Creating a wikipedia account only requires a (throw-away) email, and is actually more anonymous, since your IP will not show up in the public logs if you are logged in.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:53AM (#17421912)
    Lots of people have tagged this story with 'uae'. Well contrary to what you might think Qatar is not part of the United Arab Emirates. It is an emirate and an independent state.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatar [wikipedia.org]

    If you agree that Qatar is not part of the UAE, please tag this story 'notuae' and mod this comment 'Informative' so everyone will see it.

    Let's show Qatar that unlike Wikipedia, Slashdot is not a haven of ignorance.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by thue (121682) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:59AM (#17421938) Homepage
    I also checked the fact, and came to the same conclusion. Mod parent up.

    I am a Wikipedia administrator, and I think this block on IP edits is completely correct. IP edits (edits from users without accounts without accounts) from proxy servers with many misbehaved users should always be blocked.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by davidmcg (796487) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:03AM (#17421960) Homepage
    But as it says in the linked to post it's impossible to create a new account when logged in through the proxy, however, existing account holders should be fine.
  • Re:IPv6 (Score:5, Informative)

    by rs232 (849320) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:06AM (#17421978)
    It's situations like this that should make small countries upgrade to IPv6. What surprises me is that they haven't already.

    It's a matter of more cables. The recent outages in Asia were exasperated by the lack of redundant routes. You see to save money they only installed the minimum necessary cables as they 'weren't in an earthquake zone'.

    --
    God is dead - Nietzsche

    Nietzsche is dead - God

    Nietzsche thinks he's a tulip .. :)
  • by de la mettrie (27199) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:06AM (#17421982)
    ...on this block:
    • Affected Qataris can still edit Wikipedia if they open a Wikipedia user account, which is a no-confirmation-required one-click action. Only anonymous editing is being blocked.
    • The duration of this "soft" block is currently one month, and will probably be prolonged if there is more repeated vandalism and spam coming from this address once the block expires.
    • Anonymous reading of Wikipedia is of course not blocked at all.
  • IT in Qatar (Score:5, Informative)

    by nwetters (93281) <ngourlay@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:22AM (#17422078) Homepage

    So, the problem appears to be fixed. Users can now register for accounts. Thank you slashdot front page (Kjkolb [wikipedia.org]) ;)

    The problem came from QTel censorship [qatar.net.qa]. Every connection passes through a QTel proxy server, which uses some simplistic rules to determine whether you should be protected from your own surfing habits. If you hit blocked pages too often, your phone rings and when you answer in English you get "I'm sorry, I must have a wrong number. CLUNK." Thus your voice has been recorded for posterity.

    The shambles of Qatar's connection might be fixed soon. Q-CERT [qcert.org] has just been set up and (hopefully), someone with a bit of influence will be in charge. It is obvious that a single point of failure for an entire population's internet connection is not sensible, but whether this means a better censorship system or the scrapping of censorship remains to be seen.

  • Re:Only anon users (Score:3, Informative)

    by nwetters (93281) <ngourlay@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:27AM (#17422118) Homepage
    Before this story appeared on the front page of slashdot, Qataris were also prevented from creating new user accounts - thus preventing anyone from posting.
  • ... Qatar has a vastly different government than Saudi Arabia

    You are correct in that there is more freedom of expression in Qatar than in Saudi, and the Ministry of Information was abolished in 1996. Unfortunately, QTel has not yet realised [qatar.net.qa] that there is no censorship in Qatar [bbc.co.uk].

  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:55AM (#17422284) Homepage Journal

    If you agree that Qatar is not part of the UAE, please tag this story 'notuae'
    NO! To cancel out the "uae" tag, you should tag it !uae. Please stop adding extra useless tags.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by GC (19160) <giles@coochey.net> on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:13PM (#17422410)
    Actually, Gibraltar was recently blocked by Wikipedia in the same way and this has nothing to do with transparent proxies (GibTelecom do not use Transparent Proxies for their corporate flexiband links on which I came across this same problem recently). Trust me - I know a fair bit about transparent proxies.

    While possibly being logged in will allow editing of pages - that may be so for Qatars.

  • Re:IPv6 (Score:3, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:14PM (#17422412) Homepage
    If a country has a sole isp what makes you think they can afford to upgrade to IPv6

    Ummm, it's a very wealthy country. They have less than a million people, which is why a sole ISP might make sense, but they're not exactly suffering from poverty.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:16PM (#17422418) Homepage

    unintended consequence of stopping Qatarese from editing the wiki
    Those from Qatar are Qatari. Plural is Qataris. "Qatarese", while sounding the same, would actually be the language of Qatar, if they did not speak Arabic and such a thing actually existed. This is a classic error made by someone who doesn't read much, or doesn't understand what he reads. At the risk of sounding trite, I will repeat what every professional writer says to every aspiring writer who asks what the best preparation is for writing: read a lot. If nothing else it will give you a grasp of the written language you simply cannot get from conversation. It helps you avoid stupid errors like using "should of" instead of "should've"/"should have", or "Qatarese" instead of "Quataris". A final hint for those who think simple conversational literacy ensures adequate writing skills for submitting written articles:
    IT DOESN'T, YOU TARDS!

    I'd complain about the lack of editing skills on the part of the Slashdot guys, but we already know that when they say "editor", what they really mean is "monkey trained to click a button when a text blurb makes him grin."
  • by sinclair44 (728189) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:19PM (#17422436) Homepage
    Exactly. The same happened for my school district; I wrote a note that it was a school proxy server on the IP's talk page, and they modified the block to only apply to unregistered users. Make a note and I'm sure they'll do the same for you.
  • by yahyamf (751776) * on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:27PM (#17422482)
    Slashdot blocks logins from the UAE as well most of the time. I have to use an http proxy to post comments. Several other sites do the same thing. The whole country's traffic goes through a handful of proxy servers, which are used by UAE's infamous monopoly ISP [etisalat.ae] to censor content and block VoIP calls.
  • by dfoulger (1044592) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:32PM (#17422518) Homepage

    I can't speak for Wikipedia's spam blocking process, but I operate a Wiki that is well known enough to get a lot of spam. I block that fairly effectively. Seven pieces of true spam have gotten through over the two and a half years since I implemented the first version of my spam blocking, but I had almost half my site overwritten at one point before that, so I take it pretty seriously. I fully understand why many Wiki owners have decided to make their Wikis read only rather than deal with it and why others have resorted to required logons, confirmations of the existence of a human, and other measures. Some useful factoids:

    1. The volume of Wikispam attacks on my site more than doubled last month. I'm sure that Wikipedia gets a great deal more volume than I do and that they probably saw a similar percentage rise.
    2. Most Wikispam is focused on raising the Google ranking of one or more web sites. In the past a huge portion of the volume has been focused around pornography sites. This months most commonly advertised site is a search engine called Rollyo. Minor editorial: please boycott that search engine and its associated blog.
    3. Wikispam has a fairly predictable content and submission profile. While many Wikis have resorted to logins and address blocking, I've found the content so predictable that I actually removed my IP-based address blocking last month.
    4. One of the more predictable aspects of Wikispam is that it is often generated from many machines via robot attacks. One presumes that the attacker is not paying to use all of these different machines (e.g. that the machines have been hijacked).
    5. The middle east (and more specifically, Quatar, Kuwait, and the UAE in general) has proven to be a major source of robot attacks. I don't know if this means anything, but it suggests that machines in that part of the world are either poorly secured or have been effectively targeted by robot builders. I also get a lot of robot attacks through (presumably South) Korea.

    I don't want to make any great claims, at least in part because I don't want to increase the attack frequency on my site or get slashdotted, but my software has been very effective in blocking almost everything that the spammers throw at me. I don't currently block any countries and am reluctant to publicly reveal the rules I use for the blocking, but do block about a dozen IP addresses that have been used enough to suggest that they are directly associated with individual spammers.

  • by Macthorpe (960048) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:52PM (#17422652) Journal
    Really? Then you might have to edit the Five Pillars of Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page to remove this sentence:

    "All articles must follow our no original research policy and strive for accuracy"

    I mean, if accuracy isn't part of their mission then there's no reason that all their articles must strive to be accurate, right?
  • Re:Impressive... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Pink Tinkletini (978889) on Monday January 01, 2007 @02:14PM (#17423290) Homepage
    What's "anonymous" about a publicly visible IP address? Doesn't registering an account on Wikipedia actually make you more anonymous, not less?

    And how about the fact that your administrators block people with non-Western usernames on sight, with no warning and no recourse? Once you're blocked, you can't even try to create another username for 24 hours. I guess we must be vandals and trolls simply because we happened to be born with names in a script unreadable to Western eyes.

    Ugh. Apologies, but the mentality surrounding the whole project disgusts me.
  • Re:IPv6 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Holmwood (899130) on Monday January 01, 2007 @05:51PM (#17425208)
    First, being geographically small and having a sole ISP has nothing to do with wealth. Second.

    Qatar not able to afford to upgrade to IPv6? And stuck using Win95?

    Uh... respectfully, how did the parent get marked "interesting"? Anyone who's thought about the middle east is well aware that, while it's a small country, "Oil and natural gas revenues enable Qatar to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world." (CIA World Factbook, 2007).

    We seem good at marking Qatar as UAE, and characterizing it as a country too poor/ignorant to evolve beyond Win95.

    We should be thankful they're still allies of the US.

    Holmwood
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2007 @08:03PM (#17426574)
    No - we only blocked one IP (I was implicitly involved in the blocking process). However, from time to time we do block IP ranges when we get a lot of vandalism/spamming from dynamic address. We allow multiple offences in many cases so that we can warn the user, in the hope that they will change their ways. In this case, we saw an IP address with over 150 edits, mostly spam, and 4 or 5 previous blocks. We tend to increase blocks in length each time we have to repeat, so this IP had spammed often enough that we issued a 1 month block (at thi stage not knowing that it was the whole of Qatar). Later, after those affected by the block contacted us, and we verified their claims, we adjusted and ultimately removed the block.
  • by jwales (97533) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:39PM (#17428452) Homepage
    I don't know what else to say about it. Wikipedia is not blocking Qatar. An IP number was blocked for about 12 hours. There was an admin discussion about the issue. The IP number was unblocked.

    Move along, nothing to see.

    --Jimbo Wales
  • by jwales (97533) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:35AM (#17431798) Homepage
    Account creation was unblocked when the ip address was unblocked. The admin who originally did the block apologized immediately when his error was pointed out, and the ip address was unblocked. Everything at Wikipedia is done by volunteers who monitor everything constantly. All sorts of things go on, ip numbers are blocked and unblocked all the time. Sometimes mistakes are made and then corrected.

    My point is that a headline of "Wikipedia blocks Qatar" is inflammatory and gives people entirely the wrong idea.
  • by ral315 (741081) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @05:33PM (#17435912)
    As the administrator who unblocked the IP, I can clarify. The account was originally blocked with account creation disabled. Upon recognition that this was Qatar's IP, another administrator allowed account creation, and I removed the block altogether shortly thereafter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @08:22PM (#17437714)
    I don't know what else to say about it. Wikipedia is not blocking Qatar. An IP number was blocked for about 12 hours. There was an admin discussion about the issue. The IP number was unblocked.

    According to Wikipedia's own logs [wikipedia.org], "under 12 hours" is totally inaccurate. A block was put in place on 30 December; then 44+ hours later it was lifted and immediately re-established (the comments suggest that this was removal of the account creation ban); then 8 hours later the block was removed. Anonymous editing was blocked for over two days.
  • by jwales (97533) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:24PM (#17460378) Homepage
    You're right, I had not noticed that.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

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