On Mon, Dec 28, 2015 at 12:40 PM, Jane Darnell <jane...@gmail.com> wrote:

> If anything, the Kazakh thing just proves that the wiki model works. No
> shame in that. It's probably why the Chinese are blocking Wikipedia and not
> embracing it. You can't hide your propaganda, even from your own people.
>


Jane,

You don't seem to understand what's happening here. Kazakhstan is in the
process of replicating the Chinese "Great Firewall" for its own citizens,
using slightly different means. From a recent report in the New York
Times:[1]

---o0o---

Unlike with China, which filters data through an expensive and complex
digital infrastructure known as the Great Firewall, security experts say
Kazakhstan is trying to achieve the same effect at a lower cost. The
country is mandating that its citizens install a new "national security
certificate" on their computers and smartphones that will intercept
requests to and from foreign websites.

That gives officials the opportunity to read encrypted traffic between
Kazakh users and foreign servers, in what security experts call a "man in
the middle attack."

As a result, Kazakh telecom operators, and government officials, will be
privy to mobile and web traffic between Kazakh users and foreign servers,
bypassing encryption protections known as S.S.L., or Secure Sockets Layer,
and H.T.T.P.S., technology that encrypts browsing sessions and is familiar
to users by the tiny padlock icon that appears in browsers.

---o0o---

Do you understand what this means? The Kazakh government will be *able to
identify any Kazakh citizen who edits Wikipedia, and see what they did
there.* Even if you go into an Internet café in that country, you have to
give your name, and your activities will be monitored. That is a major
chilling effect.

So you now have a situation where the government-published encyclopedia,
with its own bent on the country's history and government, is in the Kazakh
Wikipedia, appearing under the Wikipedia brand name. It was put there by
volunteers who were promised laptops and other prizes for their work
transcribing these articles.

This was an effort that WMF board members went out of their way to praise
and reward, even though it's always been clear, since June 2011, when state
support was announced, that Wikibilim was a Kazakh government-sponsored
effort. Wikibilim's Kazakh Wikipedia project is publicly described as
"implemented under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan."[2]

Ting Chen, then chairman of the WMF board, even participated in a press
conference with Kazakh government representatives and functionaries. Yet
Wikibilim reportedly had a trademark licence agreement with the Wikimedia
Foundation within a month of the organisation's founding,[3] something I
believe most regular chapters have to wait a lot longer for, and was
immediately hailed as a future chapter.

At Wikimania 2011, this was followed by Wales' "Wikipedian of the Year"
award for Wikibilim, which was widely publicised by the Kazakh government.
What could be better PR for them than an endorsement by a free-speech
figure like Jimmy Wales?

Yet it's long been established that Wikibilim's leaders have been and are
part of the Kazakh government machine. One is now the vice-governor of a
major province in the country,[4] and the founding director of a
Brussels-based think tank that human rights organisations consider a PR
front for the regime.[5][6] Another went on to become Vice Chairman of the
company that runs the Kazakh Prime Minister's website; he is at the same
time an active editor and one of a small number of administrators in the
Kazakh Wikipedia.

The country's opposition press has been shut down. Even when remnants of it
still existed, it was clear that opposition papers would not be considered
"reliable sources" in the Kazakh Wikipedia.

If this proves that the "wiki model works", then it can only mean that it
"works" in the sense that dictatorships can very smartly exploit it for
their own ends--in this case, with apparent WMF connivance. (I would really
like to know who, if anyone, advised the WMF on this at the time.)

China has its own internet encyclopedias that it controls in a similar
manner. They have no need for Wikipedia. They have two crowdsourced
internet encyclopedias that are bigger even than the English Wikipedia, and
positively dwarf the Chinese Wikipedia.

However, there is significant government interest in Wikipedia in other
Asian countries.

What the WMF should do is to start examining to what extent these
Wikipedias are functionally censored, using the services of linguists and
political/human rights experts.

I have long advocated that there should be a Wikipedia Freedom Index[7]
indicating to the reader how free of censorship any Wikipedia is. Where a
Wikipedia is found to suffer from significant problems, the WMF should
place server-side banners on its pages, in the local language and English,
alerting readers to this fact and suggesting that they should also consult
other language versions of Wikipedia for a more rounded view.

In addition, extra caution should be exercised when importing politically
sensitive data from such Wikipedias to Wikidata.

[1]
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/03/kazakhstan-moves-to-tighten-control-of-internet-traffic/?_r=1
[2] http://inform.kz/eng/article/2480400
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Wikimedia_Kazakhstan&diff=next&oldid=2838257
[4] http://www.inform.kz/eng/article/2730173
[5]
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/jack-straw-criticised-for-accepting-part-time-job-paid-for-by-kazakhstan-10057426.html
[6] http://www.eurasianet.org/node/72831
[7] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:IdeaLab/Wikipedia_Freedom_Index
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