Both Yahoo and Google in the past have decided it was best to censor their search results to appease the demands of China. Yes, they were put in a tough spot: either they had to limit the information available to Chinese Internet users, or they didn’t which meant they would be banned all together. Now Wikipedia is finding themselves in the same spot with China currently blocking the encyclopedia. The difference between Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, and Yahoo and Google is that he says he refuses to censor the content of his site for China.
With millions of web users in China, some might see the benefits of having Wikipedia accessible, even if it’s partial content. When Google was faced with the same dilemma, their thought was that “while removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.” Wales says he plans on traveling to China in September so he can discuss the Wikipedia ban with officials there.
Will Jimmy Wales come out of China successful? I’m extremely doubtful, particularly because China employs thousands of people who are responsible for controlling the content on the Internet. China has no problem blocking thousands of sites already, so it’s hard to imagine that they’ll care about what Wales has to say. The only other issue to deal with is the fact that the most popular search engine in China, Baidu, is using content (copying word for word) from Wikipedia and not citing the source. If they’re going to use it, at least give credit where credit is due.
It’s issues like this that turn into good reminders of why I’m thankful to live in a country that doesn’t censor the content that I’m able to view on the Internet. I can’t even begin to imagine if every government around the World hired thousands of people to filter out content and took away online freedom for their citizens. I think Wales deserves credit for his efforts, even if he’s unsuccessful in China, for standing up and saying that it’s time for change.