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Beatings, Doxxings, Harassment: the War Over Chinese Wikipedia

Saturday December 18, 2021. 10:34 PM , from Slashdot
The Wikimedia Foundation banned seven high-level users in September and temporarily demoted a dozen others for abuses 'unprecedented in scope and nature.' Slashdot reader harrymcc explains:

The foundation accused these volunteers of biasing it in favor of the Chinese government's viewpoint. This incident involves beatings, doxxings, and harassment designed to ensure pro-Beijing content.

harrymcc is also technology editor at Fast Company, which got more details from Wikimedia's VP of of Community Resilience & Sustainability, Maggie Dennis:
Dennis said a monthlong investigation found that the veteran editors were 'coordinating to bias the encyclopedia and bias positions of authority' around a pro-Beijing viewpoint, in part by meddling in administrator elections and threatening, and even physically assaulting, other volunteers...

Wikipedians in China have it especially hard, because the government blocks the site and makes accessing it a crime... But as with the dedicated mainland users of blocked apps like Instagram, Telegram, and Twitter, the prohibition hasn't deterred hundreds of volunteers, who tunnel through the Great Firewall with VPNs, and now make up a small but die-hard part of the Chinese Wikipedia community. Despite China's blockade, the site remains one of the ten most active language versions of Wikipedia, thanks largely to growing numbers of editors based in Taiwan and Hong Kong...

[A]mid acute worries over China's influence in both places, the community's mix of users and viewpoints has grown increasingly combustible. In 2014, when mainland editors were in the majority, there were few references to the Hong Kong protests; more recently, swarms of 'pro Beijing' editors and 'pro democracy' editors have battled over how exactly to depict those and simliar events. Were the students at a particular rally in Hong Kong protesters or were they rioters? Is a state-backed news outlet a reliable source?

In some cases, the Foundation found, the fights had spread beyond online harassment into real-life threats, and worse... Dennis says there is no evidence the banned editors were backed by the government...

[U]ntil September, the Foundation had only issued 86 bans since 2012, and typically only one at a time. Suddenly, the Foundation's bans and penalties had knocked out a third of the Chinese edition's administrators.
China 'is home to the world's largest population of internet users and to the world's most sophisticated apparatus for policing them,' the article notes.

It argues that the banned users 'liked to defend Beijing's point of view, but they also liked their influence over the Wiki community; and a pro-China stance allowed them to more easily fly under the government's radar. To protect their fiefdom, they sometimes resorted to personal threats, harassment, and assault.' Since the ban, they've now launched a 'hard fork' of Chinese Wikipedia which already has 400,000 articles, 'tailored to appease government censors so that anyone on the mainland can access it.'

The article also explores the possibility of having one global version of Wikipedia, rather than separate local editions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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