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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

Baidupedia vs. Wikipedia

Last week, a number of international media outlets had reported on "Baidupedia", a web-based encyclopedia that is alleged by many Chinese bloggers and wikipedians as a badly twisted version of Wikipedia.

Out of the many reports, I like the one in Financial Times. Here are some paragraphs that best illustrate the differences encyclopedias and from that you can tell why many Chinese bloggers and wikipedians reacted negatively to Baidupedia.
"The block on Wikipedia distressed local devotees of a site that had become a rich source of material on everything from science to society. But it also created an attractive market opportunity for China’s leading internet search company, Baidu.com.

[...]

Wikipedia is in many ways the embodiment of the optimistic view of human nature that was the hallmark of 18th century Enlightenment thinkers. It assumes that users will have the objectivity and mutual respect to work together without the need for external controls – and that there is value in the common pursuit of truth.

Baidupedia, by contrast, harkens to a more authoritarian view of information management that would have been familiar to the mand! arins who served Chinese emperors in antiquity.

Would-be contributors, for example, are first warned that they must not do anything that might contravene a long list of rules.

Critical views of the government are banned, as are “detailed descriptions of terrorist events, promotion of “negative views of life”, and even entries that are “boring” – a proscription that many encyclopedia contributors may struggle to interpret.

“Wikipedians” see the changes they make to entries take immediate effect, but Baidupedians must wait for their entries to pass a censorship system. To encourage them to try their luck, they are awarded points for successful contributions – and punished with deductions if their entries are not accepted. The effect is clear when it comes to politically sensitive issues.

Wikipedia’s Chinese site has multi-sided entries on 1989 student-led protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, for example, a topic that does not yet even merit a mention on Baidupedia.

While objectivity is often an elusive target even for Wikipedia, Baidupedia’s content can be strikingly one-sided."


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