Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wikipedia offline in China

China's easing of a ban on the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia appears to have been short-lived. Users reported Friday that the site was unavailable in several parts of China, barely a week after it suddenly became accessible.

It wasn't immediately clear if user-contributed encyclopedia was unreachable due to technical glitches or because government censors had blocked the site again. The Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Information Industry did not immediately respond when contacted for comment Friday.

Beijing first blocked access to the English and Chinese versions of Wikipedia in October last year, apparently out of concern about entries touching on Tibet, Taiwan and other sensitive topics. China's communist government has waged a battle to control the anarchic Internet and filter the information Chinese can get. Police employ an array of measures, from sophisticated filters and detection software that hunts for sensitive words to having officers monitor Web traffic.

As a result, surfing the Web in China is a very different experience from that in much of the world. Because almost anyone can add to and edit listings in Wikipedia, the site is famously freewheeling, addressing sensitive topics that pose a challenge to Beijing's control.