Baidu, the Chinese self-censored encyclopaedia

Baidu. This is the name of a company, of the largest Chinese search engine and of an open encyclopaedia just starting now in China.

While Wikipedia is actively censored in China, Baidu wants to offer an answer to the need for an open encyclopaedia written by its visitors. Wikipedia let everybody directly modify the articles of the encyclopaedia. So the content is quickly growing (more than a million articles in the English version and more than 250,000 articles for the French version), but there are two risks:

  • The content may be false
  • Freedom of speech is difficult to limit in such a context

For the first issue, Wikipedia is relying on the reaction speed of millions of visitors even if it has been proved that it is not always enough to ensure perfect lack of factual errors (but it works mostly anyway).

The second issue is a problem only in dictatorships like China. Democrats certainly will have been surprised even by the way I expressed the concern above. But Chinese political leaders decided to filter/censor Wikipedia. Consequently, Baidu decided to bring an answer by creating a sort of Chinese Wikipedia that would censor itself with the help of its founders announcing an editing policy that can be considered as very Politically Correct (in Chinese political terms).

Nothing is really said about who will apply censorship and how…