Blocks, Censorship and Wikipedia

In this day and age, accessing specific information couldn’t be easier. Whether its research, a school project or even a quick search on your favourite celebrity, all the information you seek is only a few clicks away. Twenty years ago looking up a specific topic would be a frustrating process, going through encyclopedias page by page, skimming through the content and getting a definition. Fortunately in the year 2020, it only takes a few seconds online to find about the “polling for the Turkish general election, June 2015” on wikipedia. Well, now, with the rise of the internet, censorship has become more and more visible. Because there are significant amounts of information online more often coming across inaccurate or offensive content is something we all are aware of. Although some of the content online is deemed offensive or controversial by government officials, in many countries, it became a tool for authorities to censor or even block specific information. The inaccessibility on content resulted in the usage of VPN services by many citizens to access the websites that have been blocked.



Wikipedia was established in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. It is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia is an “open-source, multi-language encyclopaedia run by Wikimedia foundation“. Wikipedia’s goal is to provide information between users and volunteers on various topics. However, there have been a lot of criticism towards the Wikimedia Foundation for the truthfulness and credibility of their information; this has led to governments censoring the wiki page or furthermore blocking the Wikipedia content altogether.


Does the criticism on Wikipedia solely construct because of its community editing policy?

Well, the Wikimeda foundation has had its fair share of censorship from multiple goverments. The concept that any volunteer can edit almost any section on Wikipedia has raised speculation that the information could be one sided. Just by opening a free account allows access to the wiki page. A legitimate edit is once the article cites some external pieces that prove that the case was important, then it’s a valuable addition. Examples of a faulty edit is adding incorrect information, writing on own personal opinions of the subject, or removing useful information. When this happens, it’s declared “vandalism”. In this case, the altered information is immediately changed by different volunteers, and if the user continues on faulthy edits , then the account will be blocked. The criticism on Wikipedia questions its truthfulness, efficiency and reliability on the topic. The concept that anyone can contribute to the Wikipedia page led to some critics doubting the legitimacy of the info. As stated by the Wikimedia Foundation, “contributors should have a neutral point of view, the editor’s opinions and perspective should reach in a balanced way “.


What countries has wikipedia been blocked to censored?

Wikipedia has been blocked and censored in several nations before, including China, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, the UK, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. In some instances, Wikipedia has been blocked on content considered offensive, and in some cases it was the subject of internet censorship. The Chinese government has blocked the Wikipedia page on and off since June 2004, and also the Chinese language version has been blocked since 2015. The Wikimedia Foundation announced a statement on May 2019,” stating it had discovered that china blocked all versions of Wikipedia”.


Why does wikipedia, an international encyclopaedia get blocked or censored?

In Turkey’s case, governments trying to censor information that has been deemed inaccurate and untruthful on Wikipedia have performed, “internet censorship through policies and technologies aimed at controlling access to information” on the wiki page (Verde, Vitali, villain, Mancini, 2014).

“We’ve been missing it for 2 years”

Why did Turkey block Wikipedia?

Turkeys internet censorship and blocks are something the nation has had experience with in the past. The “internet law No: 5651, in May 2007″, was among the first steps that were taken on restricting the countries internet access. As of July 2019, turkey has blocked a complete of 245,825 websites (Hoof, F 2016). Several social media platforms have faced restraints before. Such as twitter, Facebook and YouTube have all suffered temporary blocks. On April 29, 2017, turkey blocked access to Wikipedia in all languages. After the Turkish government requested Wikipedia to remove offensive content, Wikipedias unwillingness to remove the content led to Turkish authorities banning Wikipedia. The information on the wiki page implied the “Turkish government was supporting terrorist organizations“. Ministry of transport, maritime and communication stated that the “website suggested that turkey was in cooperation with “terror groups“.. The Turkish authorities stated it was banning the site for the “protection of public order or national security”. The turkish Information and Communications Technologies Authority  tweeted, “This content was not allowed to be edited. … Therefore, the entire Wikipedia content had to be filtered.”

Wikimedia stans on the notion not to intervene with its community. Founder Jimmy Wales posted “access to information is a fundamental human right, Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right” .


What did the Turkish citizens do?

The blocks and the censorship’s that occurred on these various platforms and websites led to the country accessing certain platforms through DNSand VPN services. VPN services have developed into an essential tool in bypassing the countries censorship and blocks. After the block was initiated, Turkish Wikipedia was accessible with VPN usage. However, after a short period, VPN users started having difficulty accessing the wiki page. Before the Turkish Wikipedia website became blocked on April 27, 2017, the daily access on the website was at 5 million views. This immediately decreased down to 1 million by April 28, 2017.

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The Turkish Wikipedia page had some experience with filtering information in the past. There have been a few pages that have been censored on the Turkish Wikipedia page, “insan penisi” (“human penis”), “Kadin ureme organlari” (“vulva”), “testis torbasi” (“scrotum”), “vajina” (“vagina”), and “Haziran 2015 Turkiye anket secimleri” (“polling for the general Turkish election, June 2015”); (Clark, Faros, Jones; 2017).


How did the ban get lifted in Turkey?

Almost three years later, The European court of human rights (ECHR), the case against turkey on Wikipedia was given priority status. The Wikimedia foundation stated, “freedom of expression are fundamental human rights, and by blocking Wikipedia, the Turkish government violated these rights for everyone living in the country”. Soon after the Turkish court and the Wikimedia foundation’s discussions took place, the Wikimedia foundation suggested that they were “left with no choice” but to bring the case to ECHR. Turkeys constitutional court decided on January 2020, that the country’s block on Wikipedia violated human rights, almost three years later the information and Communication Technologies Authorities have lifted the ban on Wikipedia.

Government authorities have the power to shift the information we come across or bend the truth from time to time. We may believe the online platform’s accessibility to the public are spaces to discuss topics freely; however, government authorities can control these topics. They can deem which contents are accurate information or not. It may be surpassable from time to time using various services, however coming across cases on Wikipedia blocks and filtering is the example of how limited control we have over information.  

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