As Turkey blocks Wikipedia, China creates its own

2 May 2017

Wikipedia logo. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

With news that Turkey is once again blocking access to public information online through Wikipedia, China has revealed it is making its own version.

Turkey’s relationship with the internet over the past few years has been strict to say the least, with various online services such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube being blocked on a whim by the country’s government.

Following the failed coup d’état last summer, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a state of emergency, giving the ruling government greater authority to restrict freedom of speech – something that is still in place today.

Its latest effort in clamping down on challenging opinions involves the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, which has now been blocked in the country.

As revealed by the Turkish civil rights group Turkey Blocks on Twitter, all versions of the site were blocked on the morning of 29 April and this restriction, which was quickly approved by the country’s courts, remains in place.

The government’s sudden responses to dissent in Turkey over online services has seen the number of virtual private networks (VPNs) – which mask a person’s location – increase substantially.

However, access to VPNs has become increasingly difficult. The government recently found a way to prevent people in the country from accessing the most popular VPN, Tor.

In response to the recent action, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he would defend the Turkish people’s ability to access the site.

Definitely not open source

Turkey now joins China in officially blocking access to at least some parts of Wikipedia – however, the latter has just announced plans to create its own government-friendly version.

According to the BBC, this Chinese version will not source information from the general public, but through a select number of scholars from some of the country’s top universities.

The Encyclopaedia of China project will require a lot of human power. It is believed that 20,000 people have been hired to work on it, with the goal of creating 300,000 entries of around 1,000 words each.

The project is being led by the head of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, Yang Muzhi, in what he describes as a reaction to international pressure to create an online encyclopaedia for “the public and society”.

The state-sponsored effort will generate competition with its own homegrown tech giants, including Baidu, which has already begun its own encyclopaedia project.

Wikipedia logo. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic