Chinese edition of Wikipedia has been inaccessible in mainland China since June 2015, and now China has banned all language editions of Wikipedia.
Internet censorship has been a common practice in the country, and this move revokes access for its citizens to one of the most visited websites on the internet. But then this isn’t the first time China has banned a popular site as internet bigwigs like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn are already banned.
But other sites like Wikimedia Commons that holds more than 50 million freely licensed media files are still available in China. The non-profit that runs Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, said that they hadn’t received any notice as to why Wikipedia has been banned now.
“With the expansion of this block, millions of readers and volunteer editors, writers, academics, and researchers within China cannot access this resource or share their knowledge and achievements with the world. When one country, region, or culture cannot join the global conversation on Wikipedia, the entire world is poorer,” Wikimedia Foundation told Candid.Technology.
Researchers at Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found out that all the wikipedia.org sub-domains have been blocked in China using DNS injection and SNI filtering. You can check their complete findings here.
“Wikipedia has been blocked intermittently in China dating back to 2004. In late April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China.”
“After closely analysing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm that Wikipedia is currently blocked across all language versions. We have not received notice or any indication as to why this current block is occurring and why now. “
China isn’t the only place that has blocked Wikipedia, but countries around the world have intermittently done so. In 2017, it was blocked in Turkey in 2017 and this year in Venezuela.
The ‘Great Firewall’ of China has claimed another victim and stonewalled another resource on the otherwise free internet. Bans on popular websites have also caused an increase in the use of VPN among the population.
Why has Wikipedia been banned now?
While either party has said nothing concrete, the fact remains that China has been clamping down on free speech and information for quite some time. As told by the Foundation, Wikipedia has been intermittently blocked in China since 2004.
Arguably, one of the reasons for the block could be the upcoming 30th anniversary (June 4) of the infamous Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 when the Chinese government sent troops, who killed and injured thousands of pro-democracy movement activists, which included a majority of students.
Since Wikipedia has several posts related to the Tiananmen Square protest that cite back to sources, the ban can be a means to make a part of history inaccessible to Chinese citizens. Maybe China is focussing on creating a world that can be better described in Orwell’s words: “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
Also read: What is ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance? Does it affect VPN services?