Monday, October 23, 2006

Wikipedia Defeats China...

In the ongoing censorship wars, it appears that Wikipedia has, at least for the time being, triumphed over China.

For years now, the totalitarian Chinese government has censored numerous websites, including CNN and the New York Times. Wikipedia, the encyclopedic directory where ordinary people added and edited entries, has been completely blocked as well for fears that Chinese citizens would be able to access content on, for instance, the Tiananman Square massacre of 1989.

Not anymore. China has officially unblocked Wikipedia, citing that the website proved too valuable a resource for its citizens - who were circumventing the censor controls anyway. The website's founder, Jimmy Wales, outright refused the Chinese government's direct request to censor even the Chinese language version of the site (something that Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and Google all refused to do).

Let this be a lesson in electronic civil disobedience. Just as in real-space, it is sometimes morally justified to circumvent the laws of the State - and as we see in this case, the decentralized architecture of the internet means that the persistent practice of civil disobedience online, by ordinary people, is a tactic powerful enough to change, in tangible terms, the policies of even the most totalitarian of regimes.


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