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The Internet The Media Censorship

Wikipedia Blocks Qatar [Updated] 204

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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  • Re:IPv6 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davef139 ( 790691 ) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:35AM (#17421818)
    If a country has a sole isp what makes you think they can afford to upgrade to IPv6, their customers are probably using win95 still.
  • Correction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:48AM (#17421896)
    A "Technical Note []" on the talk page clarifies that the blocking of an IP address includes a ban on creating new user accounts. There's no discussion of what happens with existing accounts though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:51AM (#17421904)
    The entire Calgary School District is blocked and they are the biggest School District in Canada
    yes it is because of vandals (at other schools) but still I cannot do anything and Im not trying to vandalize but only add good content
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:06AM (#17421974) Journal
    A state that has but a single ISP has the power of censorship readily available.

    In the case of Saudi Arabia, that's exactly what happens. The whole country is behind a proxy server (or was, last I heard) and it's difficult to block a single abusive user without locking out everyone. That was my first thought reading this story, but Qatar has a vastly different government than Saudi Arabia does and there seem to be the usual accuracy problems with the summary here so I'll decline to speculate.

  • by Shipwack ( 684009 ) on Monday January 01, 2007 @11:21AM (#17422068)
    I was stationed in the Kingdom of Bahrain for a few months, and apparently most of the country's internet goes through its University, which is (or was) blocked by Slashdot for some reason. I could access the site, but not login, even after I sent email to the Slashdot admins as instructed. Not very important in the grand scheme of things, just annoying at the time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:02PM (#17422342)
    Qatar, and all of the other arab/islamic governments censor what their citizenry can see. This leads to "news" organizations such as al-jazeera arising, and "reporting" bile-laden "stories" as "independent reporting". This "reporting" seems to follow the government line in most cases, and terrorists lines for the rest of the cases.

    You can get spoon fed from the government, or the terrorists. Great choice.

    Wikipedia solved the issue by requiring a non-anonymous login to edit. They may need a slightly more nuanced version. We in the west often view this as a great way to hold people accountable for what they write. Unfortunately, so do governments that are, well, not that interested in little things such as free speech, freedom of expression, and related terrible western-imperial concepts. Thus such governments tend to crack down on their people who have the temerity to post what they see and think. Imagine what would happen to the governments if people actually started to freely comment and criticize the government. Heaven forbid!

    This is why the bloggers in Egypt have been arrested. This is why bloggers across the arab/islamic world have been threatened when they dare criticize the existing order, policies, governments. This is why media organizations tow the government line so hard. This is why we need to come up with a mechanism to enable them to post real content without fear of retribution. Censorship has many forms. Physical intimidation is practiced regularly by the governments in their corner of the world. Arrests, detention, spying all in the name of preservation of the repressive governments.

    We need to figure out how to help them get the tools of communication without enabling others to take that away from them. Wikipedia is one such tool. We need others.
  • by SteveTinksy ( 1045828 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @03:02AM (#17429492)
    A group of Wikipedians has been trying to raise awareness about RFC 1918 private networks among admins and other sysops at Wikipedia. The Qatar issue is just the latest. T-Mobile Hotspots is another big example of these networks. A small group of administrators is trying to hide this information from other admins and even spread disinformation about the issue. You can read user Dmcdevit spreading some crazy disinformation about private networks in this thread []. Another admin associated with Dmcdevit, Naconkantari, has been edit warring on the main WikiMedia site over a simple proposal [] to improve WikiMedia to deal more favorably with these networks. That edit war has gone on for weeks [] over a simple proposal on the Babel page. I have no idea why anyone would want to tighten a wiki to keep out users of large private networks, but there you have the edit histories on Wikipedia and Wikimedia. Something is afoot.
  • by jamie ( 78724 ) * <> on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @09:27AM (#17430888) Journal

    You wrote on the linked Wikipedia page:

    This IP number was temporarily blocked for less than 12 hours, and a block of an entire nation would go absolutely against Wikipedia policy. In the English Wikipedia, such an action would require approval of at a minimum the English Arbitration Committee and/or me personally, and would never ever be undertaken lightly, nor without extensive attempts at direct negotiation with the ISP and/or nation in question.

    A user who claims to be from Qatar has added, below your comment:

    As one who was affected by the block, I'd like to clarify. On 30 December 2006, a Wikipedia admin placed a one-month block on the IP address for reasons of chronic vandalism and spam. The IP address turned out to belong to a QTel proxy server, and thus anonymous posting from the whole of Qatar was blocked. Account creation was also blocked, but this condition was later relaxed after the ban was widely reported across technology sites.

    Apparently the block was reverted, as you say, in under 12 hours. Was the block originally put in place as a one-month block or not? If so, then saying it was "temporarily blocked for less than 12 hours" omits an important detail, and saying "a block of an entire nation would go absolutely against Wikipedia policy... and would never ever be undertaken lightly, nor without extensive attempts at direct negotiation" is misleading (since, whether it is against policy or not, it happened, and was done apparently without attempts at negotiation).

    Also, can you comment on whether account creation was unblocked before or after the ban was widely reported? If Slashdot got the story wrong, we will surely update it. But changing the ban after reports surface, and then saying "Move along, nothing to see," is not the same thing.

    (For the record, an ISP that routes every user through one IP can expect to have this kind of thing happen. I hope this encourages Qatar and/or its ISP to get a better outgoing-IP policy. If Slashdot had repeated anonymous abuse from this IP we would probably ban it from anonymous posting, and later probably unban it, in pretty much exactly the way Wikipedia seems to have done.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @11:25AM (#17431712)
    now censored []
  • by SteveTinksy ( 1045828 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @07:29PM (#17437188)

    You can view the block log [] (though the block log descritpison do not always accurately describe the type of block. You can see the contribution history [] for these anonymous editors. From a cursory glance at this information, it's hard to imagine an admin would find a one month block justifiable (even if the admin did not know it was an entire country). One month definitely looks like an over-reaction.

    However, we've seen more and more problems with admins lately on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is no longer relying on volunteers, but more and more relying on paid staff, working in shifts aroudn the clock. Often times these admins show no interest in building an encyclopedia, but do want to excercise their uninformed editorial slant whenever possible. Consequently, we have admins blocking valuable editors because they hold the wrong point-of-view (i.e., not the point-of -view of the admin).. There are still many volunteers working on Wikipedia, but things don't work as smoothly as they used to.

    The issue of proxy servers is also just per speculation. The term open proxy is bandied about among Wikipedia admins as if it's some sort of evil. I'm not saying there aren't problems with proxy servers, but whenever there's a problem they cry "open proxy server", whether they have any evidence of that or not. Clearly, there's no information that anyone has presented that shows us that Qatar has an open proxy server. We don't even know if they use a proxy server at all. However, from what we're hearing it looks like Qtel uses an RFC 1918 private network to conserve IP addresses. This is a very common internet standard. It's something admins on any wiki should be aware of (they're not on wikipedia). And it's something to be careful about when encountering very large private networks (like the nation of Qatar).. Wikipedia administrators seem very resistant to learning about internet technology. They just react in knee-jerk fashion to any threat (no matter how small). I think the wiki software and the wiki concept are both good ideas. Unfortunately Wikimedia and it's related projects have lost sight of that project.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.