Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-11-20/China reblock

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One week later, Wikipedia reblocked in mainland China

By Michael Snow, 20 November 2006

A week after access to the Chinese Wikipedia appeared to have been restored, authorities of the People's Republic of China reversed that move and blocked the entire site again. The change came as a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman stated that the government administers the Internet there "in accordance with law."

As reported last week (see archived story), an unblocking of Wikipedia in October, which was only partially applied to the Chinese-language version, transformed into a general unblock of the Chinese version around November 10. A major spike in new user registrations and creation of new articles followed (as did some negative byproducts, such as more articles being deleted and an increased need to remove copyright infringements). The change also gained significant media attention, including stories appearing in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Amid this press coverage, however, the situation turned dramatically, quickly enough that stories about the unblock were being published after events had rendered them obsolete. On Thursday, November 17, around 9-10 am Beijing time according to Andrew Lih, the site was blocked again in mainland China. The updated situation was quickly picked up by the Associated Press, creating a confusing mix of news reports that Wikipedia was either blocked or unblocked, until stories about the reblocking took over.

Since no clear reason for the unblock or the reblock is known, some people tried to dig for clues. On November 16, a reporter asked specifically about Wikipedia's unblock at a regular Foreign Ministry press conference. Spokeswoman Jiang Yu responded, according to an English transcript (Chinese version), "I'm not aware of the information on the website you mentioned."

Her response was soon relayed in English-language media via Reuters wire service reports, shortly before the reversal. The timing prompted some speculation that the question may have led to the reblocking, although Lih commented, "There is no way to know at this point." As in the past, the PRC government has not officially confirmed the block or given an explanation of the reason for it.

The prospects for change also remain uncertain, with no information on whether this is a permanent or interim approach. William Moss, a CNET blogger based in Beijing, observed that several other blocked sites have had interludes in which they are accessible again. Lih indicated that the renewed block was somewhat more restrictive, also preventing searches for the Chinese Wikipedia's web domain, zh.wikipedia.org.


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