Wikipedia vs. The People’s Republic of China

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales (one of the 100 most influential people in the World according to Time Magazine) today risked the wrath of the Chinese Government by refusing to bow to their pressure to censor certain ‘politically sensitive’ (in the context of China) articles that feature on the site.

Wikipedia has been banned in China since late 2005, and the People’s Republic are refusing to lift the ban unless the site fall in with their mandate and apply broad censorship tolarge swathes of the content. This is in stark contrast to other internet behemoths Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, who have all agreed to limit certain areas or prevent access to sites that are deemed ‘inappropriate’.

Wales believes that it needs to be “all or nothing” for Wikipedia, and any attempt to censor would be in direct violation of the central ethos of the company: “standing for the freedom of information”.

This is an admirable stand: China, with a population exceeding 1.3bn (over 20% of the Global population) and one of the fastest growing commerical markets in the World, is a tempting market. It probably helps that the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia) is a non-profit organisation, but even with this in mind, I can’t help be impressed.

There’s a great post on SlashDot about this, outling why Wikipedia, as a dyamic information service, couldn’t possibly adhere to the Chinese rules (number 11 is great and kind of sums it all up):

Considering China’s regulations [hrw.org] I don’t think it’d be possible for Mr. Wales to accomplish censoring all of Wikipedia from what’s on the list from China’s Article 19 of censorship policy. This that China requires to be censored:

  1. violating the basic principles as they are confirmed in the Constitution;
  2. jeopardizing the security of the nation, divulging state secrets, subverting of the national regime or jeopardizing the integrity of the nation’s unity;
  3. harming the honor or the interests of the nation;
  4. inciting hatred against peoples, racism against peoples, or disrupting the solidarity of peoples;
  5. disrupting national policies on religion, propagating evil cults and feudal superstitions;
  6. spreading rumors, disturbing social order, or disrupting social stability;
  7. spreading obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, terror, or abetting the commission of a crime;
  8. insulting or defaming third parties, infringing on the legal rights and interests of third parties;
  9. inciting illegal assemblies, associations, marches, demonstrations, or gatherings that disturb social order;
  10. conducting activities in the name of an illegal civil organization; and
  11. any other content prohibited by law or rules.

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