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Thursday, October 12, 2006

China unblocks Wikipedia

Reported by Editor & Publisher (via BoingBoing), Wikipedia apparently is now available again in China. Here's Wikipedia's explanation

"We'll see how long this lasts," said the company on its site. "Chinese Wikipedians have expressed fears about the detrimental effects that a permanent ban would have. First of all, the block deprives a useful resource from the majority of Chinese speakers in the world. Moreover, since Mainland Chinese form a significant portion of the Chinese Wikipedia community (46% of all users in March 2005), a long-term block could severely stunt the growth of Wikipedia similar to the block in June 2004."
Here's the Wikipedia article itself on the history of blockage. The article shares how 1 Wikipedia sysop in China posed it in the public interest of China:
.. [t]he most effective approach is not to reject [this project] outside our borders, but to participate in it actively. If we block Wikipedia, we lose the opportunity to speak with the world with a Chinese voice, and allow forces such as evil cults and Taiwanese independence [to] control the development of content in the project, thus presenting to the world a twisted [image of] China; as users, we lose a channel through which we could access knowledge, a channel whose importance is rising constantly; such an act [i.e. blocking] is no different from cutting away our own voice and tongue, or shutting our own eyes and ears; it is closing the doors to our country in the age of the internet.

I think this is a good example of a Chinese citizen trying to pose the dilemma of control/censorship back to Chinese regulators in a way that suggests that active engagement in the global conversation is in the best interests of China. Most Western criticism poses freedom of the press as an unalienable human right, but I think this represents a more subtle approach that poses active, positive engagement in the free market of information as a case for more freedom.

UPDATE: Via ChinaHerald, and interesting post by Andrew Lih on how the unblocking actually happens...shows that the Great Firewall while mandated top down, is implemented bottom up, actually very distributed and very provincial...similar to most things in China.

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