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Chinese Wikipedia’s fights are the front line in a global war – Fast Company

Summary

This past July, before he was banned from Wikipedia, Techyan was one of dozens of volunteers preparing to speak at the free-knowledge movement’s annual conference, Wikimania. Born in China’s northeast, Techyan, as he’s known in the Wikipedia community, had been editing Chinese Wikipedia since his early teens. As one of its three dozen elected administrators, he hoped his presentation would put a more positive spin on what, lately, had become Wikipedia’s ugliest battlefield.

Rath…….

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This past July, before he was banned from Wikipedia, Techyan was one of dozens of volunteers preparing to speak at the free-knowledge movement’s annual conference, Wikimania. Born in China’s northeast, Techyan, as he’s known in the Wikipedia community, had been editing Chinese Wikipedia since his early teens. As one of its three dozen elected administrators, he hoped his presentation would put a more positive spin on what, lately, had become Wikipedia’s ugliest battlefield.

Rather than the edit wars and personal threats that had come to define some of its hot-button political topics like Hong Kong and Taiwan, Techyan planned to talk about how his three-year-old user group, the Wikipedians of Mainland China, or WMC, had thrived. It had done so in spite of government restrictions, and without official acknowledgment from the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts the site in over 300 languages and hands out millions in grants.

Then in July, weeks before Wikimania, an email from the Foundation landed in his inbox: His presentation had been canceled. “Weeks later, I was banned,” he says.

According to a September statement by Maggie Dennis, the Foundation’s VP of trust and safety, Techyan and six other high-level users were actually involved in “an infiltration” of the Chinese Wikipedia. In an interview, 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. In all, the Foundation banned seven editors and temporarily demoted a dozen others over the abuses, which Dennis called “unprecedented in scope and nature.”

Seasoned Wikipedia volunteers are familiar with harassment and vandalism, but Wikipedians in China have it especially hard, because the government blocks the site and makes accessing it a crime. Since the Chinese edition was blocked in 2015, millions of mainland Chinese have turned to Baidu Baike, a homegrown, for-profit, Party-sanctioned alternative. 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. And amid 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 <…….

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90692176/chinese-wikipedia