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Wikimedia Foundation confirms, and bemoans, Pakistan ban

Dear government, this thing is written by volunteers. Take it up with them. Also: shouldn't you know this already ?

The Wikimedia Foundation released a statement on Friday confirming that, according to internal traffic reports, Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects are no longer accessible to users in Pakistan.

The Foundation's post came two days after Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority (PTA) threatened bans if Wikipedia did not censor content it deemed "sacrilegious."

The authority had issued a warning shot in the form of degraded performance of the crowdsourced encyclopaedia for 48 hours before blocking it completely.

But according to the Foundation, it does not possess the power to deliver on Pakistan's demands. In its statement, the organization outlined just how Wikipedia is written: using 300,000 volunteer editors who follow guidelines and require citations and references before allowing public edits of content.

"Content on Wikipedia is mined from secondary sources; it does not allow original research," said the org.

"The Wikimedia Foundation does not make decisions around what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained," it added.

Which is just what The Register said when we titled our first story on this incident "Hi, Pakistan? You do know anyone can edit Wikipedia, right? You don't have to ask."

The Foundation's post therefore invited any individuals, organization or governments that have a problem with Wikipedia's content to share their concerns through the dedicated response channels the outfit operates.

In Pakistan, the English version of Wikipedia receives over 50 million pageviews per month. Urdu language and Russian language Wikipedias are the next most popular. The Foundation described the number of editors in Pakistan who contribute historical and educational content as "sizable and engaged."

"We believe that access to knowledge is a human right. A block of Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan's history and culture," tweeted Wikimedia Foundation on Friday.

Internet interruption-watcher NetBlocks also confirmed the outage, noting tht Pakistan's blocks can be circumvented with a VPN.

NetBlocks also noted that the move to block Wikipedia was out of character for the Pakistan government, despite its many shutdowns and bans on sites in the past.

"Pakistan has frequently imposed temporary internet shutdowns during protests, however the use of filtering to pressure a major platform into compliance as in this case is relatively rare," said NetBlocks, adding that the country also does not typically issue public notices before blocking – or "filtering" – websites.

The Register notes Pakistan has banned TikTok at least four times and in April 2021 Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram were cut for four hours. YouTube was blocked in the country between 2012 and 2016.

Other countries that have banned Wikipedia, either temporarily or permanently, include China, Turkey and Venezuela. ®

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