Wikipedia bans all of Qatar after encyclovandalism

Written by Ryan Garside

January 3, 2007 | 10:46

Tags: #encyclopedia #wiki #wikipedia

The BBC reported yesterday that Wikipedia, the online fountain of knowledge, temporarily banned the entire nation of Qatar from accessing its articles after repeated attacks by someone in that nation on the entries on the US, sex and Muhammad.

The restriction for the entire country was originally thought to be a forced necessity, due to the nature of Qatar’s internet service. Wikipedia would normally ban the offending editors IP but that isn’t possible with Qatar, as all web traffic is routed through one single IP. Wikipedia wanted to make clear that its position wasn’t to offend any particular nation, with chair of the Wikimedia Foundation, Florence Devouard telling the BBC:

"None of us is against any country. We come from countries all over the world. Not only the USA, not only Europe. We are aware some of our very good editors are sometimes blocked after a vandalism spree, this happened just a few days ago in Thailand. We unblock people as soon as possible. We wish to allow the maximum numbers of people, from everywhere. We just have to protect ourselves from vandals from time to time."

We did a little bit of investigating to see if we could find the offending posts in the Wiki history. In the entry for Muhammad we found this reason for deleting one new entry:

“Reasons: Who are those people with red hats? Have you ever seen an old Arab wearing red hat? Can you imagine the Muhammad wear blue dress? Muhammad sits with people and not on top. Who is the woman?”

Unfortunately we weren’t able to find the picture of the Arabs in the red hats and so can’t offer an opinion on the legitimacy of the ban.

To clarify; the ban on Qatar only affects those without a login. Even once the ban was implemented people could still edit articles if they were from Qatar provided they logged in. Obviously most people don’t like creating a log in as that removes the opportunity for posting anonymously.

In speaking with the Guardian Jimmy Wales explained the block on the entirety of Qatar was in fact an administrative error:

"The admin who did the block did not realize that the IP number was one of the special ones that we try to keep open even when there is a repeated series of vandalisms. Other admins pointed it out, and the IP was quickly unblocked."

So there you have it, Wiki will continue to have this struggle against vandals whilst it allows people to edit articles anonymously. Do you support anonymous editing? Let us know in the forums.
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