Twofish's Blog

November 19, 2006

Chinese wikipedia reblock

Filed under: china, politics, wikipedia — twofish @ 7:18 pm

Looks like it is back down again. 😦 😦 😦 😦

has coverage on what has been happening.

For me, the most frustrating thing is less the blocks and reblocks, but the lack of transparency in the process. The speculation right now is that the site was unblocked at a relatively low level, and then reblocked when someone asked about it in a Foreign Ministry press conference.

One thing that I’m actually trying to figure out a way of doing is to figure out a way of establishing a communications channel between the wikipedia community and the PRC bureaucracy, and right now the only way of I know of doing this is to loudly post public messages, and hope someone will pass them along.

If the problem was that the unblock attracted too much attention from the Western press, then there are some easy ways to deal with this. One (which I hope is what is going on) is to randomly unblock and reblock wikipedia so that if it gets blocked and reblocked and unblocked, that it won’t make it in the NYT. The reason that this unblock got a lot of press is that the block was over a year long. If the blocks and unblocks are more frequent, then it would not be a major issue.

What really concerns me is that the press attention to the unblock has caused the decision on block/unblock to move to another level of government which is much more unsympathetic to wikipedia than the people responsible for the original block. If that is the case, there are still technical ways around that. Basically, you built proxys with random IP addresses so that a simple IP block won’t work. You can get around that, but that requires effort. Also, it allows for someone in the bureaucracy who is sympathetic to wikipedia to argue for plausible deniability and to argue that the costs of blocking should make countering this a low priority.

Now I’m just speaking for myself as someone that knows some of the people that are in the wikipedia community. I don’t represent anyone. What I’d like to see is some blog out there from someone who is just speaking for themselves, but happens to know some of the people in the Chinese internet community. I’d like to understand some of the political and technical constraints regarding the wikipedia block so that I can get done what I want to get done.


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