Culture 3 min read

China Blocks All Language Editions of Wikipedia

China's Great Firewall added another member to its exclusion list this week with all language editions of Wikipedia being included in their censorship policy.

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According to recent reports, Beijing has extended its block of the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia to include all language editions.

While the Chinese version of the online encyclopedia had been inaccessible in the country since 2015, other language versions were available – until now.

An internet censorship research group – the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) – claimed that the state started blocking all language editions of Wikipedia last month. And by Wednesday, AFP reported that it could not open any version of the encyclopedia in China.

This raises a curious question: why did the Chinese government prevent access to other language edition of Wikipedia?

In a statement to AFP, one of the co-founders of greatfire.org, Charlie Smith (a pseudonym) said:

‘Blocking access to all language versions of Wikipedia for internet users in China is just symbolic. “It symbolizes the fear that the Chinese authorities have of the truth.”

With that said, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, said the country hadn’t given any reason to explain its latest block. While China has blocked its encyclopedia intermittently since 2004, it has never extended the ban to other languages.

In her email to AFP, communication manager at Wikimedia Foundation, Samantha Lien discussed the effect of the block.

She stated that by expanding its block, China is not only preventing millions of readers, writers, academics, and volunteer editors from accessing valuable resources, but also sharing their knowledge and achievement with the world.

In an email to AFP, communication manager at Wikimedia Foundation, Lien said: 

“When one country, region, or culture cannot join the global conversation on Wikipedia, the entire world is poorer.”

The Great Firewall of China

China already prevents residents’ access to a large number of foreign sites – such as Facebook, Google, and the New York Times. Also, the authorities reportedly scrub anything it deemed too “sensitive” for its nation.

Recently, the Chinese authorities have increased its online control by cracking down on tools designed to circumvent the great firewall. An example of such is a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Since residents could still read Wikipedia using online translation tools, it only makes sense that other language editions of the encyclopedia would join the ban.

Smith believes the authorities could also consider images taboo.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and there is no dearth of Tiananmen-related imagery on the Wikipedia website,” he concluded.

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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