Analyzing Accessibility of Wikipedia Projects Around the World

May 2017

Justin Clark, Robert Faris, and Rebekah Heacock Jones

Wikipedia Censorship CoverThis study, conducted by the Internet Monitor project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, analyzes the scope of government-sponsored censorship of Wikimedia sites around the world. The study finds that, as of June 2016, China was likely censoring the Chinese language Wikipedia project, and Thailand and Uzbekistan were likely interfering intermittently with specific language projects of Wikipedia as well.

However, considering the widespread use of filtering technologies and the vast coverage of Wikipedia, our study finds that there was relatively little censorship of Wikipedia globally in June 2016. In fact, our study finds there was less censorship in June 2016 than before Wikipedia’s transition to HTTPS-only content delivery in June 2015. HTTPS prevents censors from seeing which page a user is viewing, which means censors must choose between blocking the entire site and allowing access to all articles. This finding suggests that the shift to HTTPS has been a good one in terms of ensuring accessibility to knowledge.

The study identifies and documents the blocking of Wikipedia content using two complementary data collection and analysis strategies: a client-side system that collects data from the perspective of users around the globe and a server-side tool to analyze traffic coming in to Wikipedia servers. Both client- and server-side methods detected events that we consider likely related to censorship, in addition to a large number of suspicious events that remain unexplained. The report features results of our data analysis and insights into the state of access to Wikipedia content in 15 select countries.

Download the full report as a PDF