According to the US non-profit organization that runs the volunteer-edited encyclopedia, Wikipedia has been subjected to an “infiltration” that aimed to further China’s goals.
The invasion jeopardized the “basic foundations of Wikipedia,” according to the Wikimedia Foundation.
Seven editors affiliated with a mainland Chinese organization were barred by the foundation. Mainland Wikimedians The foundation was accused by China of “baselessly slandering a small number of people.”
In a message to volunteers, foundation vice-president Maggie Dennis wrote, “This case is unprecedented in scale.”
She also informed BBC News that the charity has been looking into the infiltration of Wikipedia in Chinese for over a year. However, “credible threats” to the safety of volunteers “motivated us to prioritize quick action” this summer.
Ms. Dennis stated that the foundation was fighting “capture,” which occurs when a group obtains control of Wikipedia editing to favor a specific perspective.
It has also lately established a misinformation unit.
In this case, the infiltrators attempted to promote “the aims of China, as interpreted through whatever filters they may bring to bear”, Ms. Dennis told BBC News.
“Controlling content was an aim,” she said.
She also said, “I am not in a position to point fingers at the Chinese state nor in possession of information that would lead me to do so.”
However, Wikipedia stated that “extensive and thorough investigations” into Wikimedians of Mainland China, an organization that claims to have about 300 members, resulted in the ban of seven users and the loss of administrator rights from another 12. There have also been concerns that elections for major administrator positions were being rigged, putting the editing process in danger.
Other editors have been told to change their ways as well.
Wikimedians in Mainland China accused the foundation of going against the “feelings and opinions of the community” as a response to the restrictions in a blog post.
Ms. Dennis, on the other hand, said that the foundation acted because of a disagreement between mainland Chinese Wikimedians and Hong Kong volunteers.
The Hong Kong Free Press reported in July on “editorial fights” over stories on political events.
After the shutdown of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper and the arrest of its main executives, the situation deteriorated further. The Hong Kong Free Press said that mainland editors were “pushing for the use of Chinese official media as reputable news sources” in Wikipedia pages.
In online discussion forums, it was also discovered that some had considered reporting Hong Kong editors to the city’s national security police hotline.
According to Selina Cheng of the Hong Kong Free Press, some members of the Hong Kong Wikipedia community are now afraid of “commenting on politically sensitive topics.”
“Hong Kong users feared they may be targeted as a result of their identities being known,” she said.
They sought assistance from the Wikimedia Foundation’s Trust and Safety team.