A BBC investigation of Wikipedia found that communist China is manipulating the supposed “online encyclopedia” using techniques such as “mass edits.” The investigation found more than 1,600 edits on 22 “politically sensitive” topics such as Taiwan and the Hong Kong protests.
BBC News reports that the Wikipedia page for Taiwan has become the grounds of an edit war between China and Taiwan, with China insisting that the area is a “province in the People’s Republic of China” while Taiwan claims that it is “a state in East Asia.” The edits have been made and changed repeatedly on the page, causing many digital devices such as iPhones to give conflicting answers as to whether or not the state of Taiwan existed.
Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan, stated: “This year is a very crazy year, a lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.” Many other Wikipedia pages have seen mass edit attempts in recent months, such as the page for the Hong Kong protests which has seen as many as 65 edits in the space of one day. The edits mainly related to whether those involved were “protesters” or “rioters.”
On the Mandarin version of Wikipedia, the article on the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre was edited to describe the event as “the June 4th incident” to “quell the counter-revolutionary riots.” The Dalai Lama is referred to as a Tibetan refugee on the English version while the Mandarin version calls him a Chinese exile.
Lin commented: “It’s control by the [Chinese] Government. That’s very terrible.” An investigation by BBC Click found almost 1600 edits across 22 politically sensitive articles designed to promote a controversial viewpoint or opinion. Jie Ding, an official from the China International Publishing Group, an organisation controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, argued in a paper that “there is a lack of systematic ordering and maintenance of contents about China’s major political discourse on Wikipedia.”
Ding’s paper urges the importance for Chinese citizens to “reflect our voices and opinions in the entry, so as to objectively and truly reflect the influence of Chinese path and Chinese thoughts on other countries and history.” Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told BBC Click: “‘Telling China’s story’ is a concept that has gained huge traction over the past couple of years. They think that a lot of the perceptions people have of China abroad are really misunderstandings.”
Tsui told BBC Click: “It’s absolutely conceivable that people from the diaspora, patriotic Chinese, are editing these Wikipedia entries. But to say that is to ignore the larger structural coordinated strategy the government has to manipulate these platforms.”
Shirley Ze Yu, a visiting senior fellow at the LSE, commented on China’s mass edits of Wikipedia pages stating: “China is the second-largest economy in the world and is doing what any other country in this status would seek. Today China does owe the world a China story told by itself and from a Chinese perspective. I think it’s not only Chinese privilege, it’s really a responsibility”.
Wikipedia content moderators have often found themselves caught up in these political crossfires, with Lin stating: “Some have told us that their personal information has been sprayed [released], because they have different thoughts.” Some Taiwanese Wikipedians have also received threats as a result of their edits, one on the Wikimedia telegram Channel stated: “the policemen will enjoy your mother’s forensic report.”
Silicon Valley tech firms have regularly relied on Wikipedia to provide information to devices, often resulting in issues for the firms. In June of 2018, Google blamed “vandalism” at Wikipedia for inaccurate search results which claimed that the California GOP promoted Nazism.
Read more at BBC Click here.