Wikipedia blames pro-China infiltration for bans

Wikipedia

Wikipedia has suffered an “infiltration” that sought to advance the aims of China, the US non-profit organisation that owns the volunteer-edited encyclopaedia has said.

The Wikimedia Foundation told BBC News the infiltration had threatened the “very foundations of Wikipedia”.

The foundation banned seven editors linked to a mainland China group.

Wikimedians of Mainland China accused the foundation of “baselessly slandering a small group of people”.

‘Rapid response’

“This case is unprecedented in scope,” foundation vice-president Maggie Dennis said, in a note to volunteers.

And she told BBC News the foundation had been investigating the infiltration of Chinese-language Wikipedia for nearly a year.

But this summer, “credible threats” to volunteers’ safety had “led us to prioritise rapid response”.

The foundation was battling against “capture”, where a group gains control of the editing of the Wikipedia to favour a particular viewpoint, Ms Dennis wrote.

And it has recently set up a disinformation team.

‘Controlling content’

In this case, the infiltrators had tried to promote “the aims of China, as interpreted through whatever filters they may bring to bear”, Ms Dennis told BBC News.ADVERTISEMENT

“Controlling content was an aim,” she said.

But she also said: “I am not in position to point fingers at the Chinese state nor in possession of information that would lead me to do so.”

Wikipedia articles about politically sensitive in Hong Kong topics have been the subject of edit battles
Edit battles have contested Wikipedia articles about political events in Hong Kong

However, “long and deep investigations” into Wikimedians of Mainland China, a group claiming to have about 300 members, had resulted in the banning of seven users and the removal of administrator privileges from a further 12, Wikipedia said.

And there had been concern elections for powerful administrator roles were being manipulated and the process of editing risked being overwhelmed.

Other editors have also been asked to modify their behaviour.

In a post in response to the bans, Wikimedians of Mainland China accused the foundation of acting contrary to the “feelings and opinions of the community”.

But Ms Dennis said the foundation had acted in awareness of conflict between mainland China based Wikimedians and volunteers in Hong Kong.

In July, the Hong Kong Free Press reported “battles between competing editors” over articles describing political events.

And the situation worsened after the closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper and the arrest of its top executives,

Mainland editors were increasingly “pushing for the use of Chinese state media as reliable news sources” in Wikipedia articles, the Hong Kong Free Press alleged.

People queue to buy the last edition of Apple Daily
People queue to buy the last edition of Apple Daily

And it revealed some had discussed reporting Hong Kong editors to the city’s national security police hotline, in online chat groups.

Some members of the Hong Kong Wikipedia community were now fearful of “commenting on politically sensitive articles”, Hong Kong Free Press reporter Selina Cheng told BBC News.

“Hong Kong users feared they may be targeted as a result of their identities being known,” she said.

And they asked the Wikimedia Foundation’s Trust and Safety team to help them.

‘Biasing information’

Weeks earlier, the foundation, responding to a security warning, had restricted access to personally identifiable information in two jurisdictions where access to Wikipedia was blocked – including China.

It had feared volunteers – some of whom are young – could be exploited or compelled to share personal data by “state actors or others with an interest in biasing information”.

Ms Dennis said the “software” showed the foundation’s actions had worked and no data had been misused.

But the latest action to counter infiltration had been necessary because individuals had inadvertently put themselves at risk by sharing information about themselves, “such as attending local meetings or sharing personal email addresses” with other users.

‘Risked harm’

“When the foundation has credible information that some volunteers may not be interacting in good faith – and in this case, there was plenty – we may feel it necessary to protect the community by removing those individuals from access,” she said.

“In such cases, users are banned.”

Ms Dennis said she was keen none of the steps taken to protect Wikipedia should discourage Chinese-speakers from joining the community – or volunteers in China who had worked “for free and open knowledge” and may have risked harm by doing so.

To the 4,000 Chinese language Wikimedians she wrote: “We are committed to supporting you in doing this work into the future, with the tools you need to succeed in a safe, secure,and productive environment.”

Source: BBC

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

We need your help.

The cost of maintaining a community news site like China News is always increasing.

While access to content will always be free, we would appreciate if you could donate any amount, no matter how small, to keep us operating.

This is completely optional and won’t affect your ability to read any of our articles.

Thank you.

Make a monthly donation

We need your help.

The cost of maintaining a community news site like China News is always increasing.

While access to content will always be free, we would appreciate if you could donate any amount, no matter how small, to keep us operating.

This is completely optional and won’t affect your ability to read any of our articles.

Thank you.

Make a yearly donation

We need your help.

The cost of maintaining a community news site like China News is always increasing.

While access to content will always be free, we would appreciate if you could donate any amount, no matter how small, to keep us operating.

This is completely optional and won’t affect your ability to read any of our articles.

Thank you.

Choose an amount

$1.00
$2.00
$5.00
$1.00
$2.00
$5.00
$1.00
$2.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly


Categories: Communication & Technology

Tags: , ,

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: