We often hear about the “Great Firewall of China”, the filter put in place by Chinese censors to prevent access to material that is disapproved of by the Chinese government. For example, there is no access to BBC News. However, for those in the West, it’s usually only possible to read media reports, or hear second- or third-hand about such restrictions.
Last week, the Chinese search engine Baidu launched its own wiki-based encyclopedia called Baike. Unlike Wikipedia – the free, collaborative encyclopedia available in many languages including Chinese – articles submitted to Baike do not appear immediately, but first have to be approved by anonymous editors. In addition, if a user attempts to search for a topic about which discussion is forbidden, the connection to the server is refused, and access to Baike is blocked for 10–15 minutes!
For example, try visiting Baike and searching for “democracy” (民主) or “Falun gong” (法轮功) – you can copy and paste the Chinese words from here if you don’t have the means to input them yourself. Not only will you receive no response, but you won’t be able to access the site again for a while. First-hand evidence of censorship.
Perhaps it’s understandable that a Chinese company has to follow the Communist Party line. It’s a bit more unfortunate that the likes of Google and Microsoft have chosen to do the same.