Wikipedia denies Qatar users subject to ban

The founder of Wikipedia denied reports the online encyclopedia had banned users in Qatar from editing entries, saying users there were temporarily blocked as part of a routine effort to counter vandalism and spam from one IP address.

The founder of Wikipedia denied reports the online encyclopedia had banned users in Qatar from editing entries, saying users therewere temporarily blocked as part of a routine effort to counter vandalism and spam from one IP address.

Jimmy Wales's response came after the British Broadcasting Corporation's website and technology blog Slashdot reported computer users in Qatar were blocked from making changes on Wikipedia for almost 12 hours on Monday.

Wales told CBC News Online in an e-mail Tuesday the news "is a completely false non-story."

"The idea that this was a ban on Qatar or that there was anything at all special or unusual about this is just false," he said. "We do it all the time."

Wikipedia blocked the IP address to counter acts of vandalism and spam originating from the address. But because all of Qatar's web traffic is routed through a single IP address, the block prevented other users in the country from making changes to the site.

Blocking an internet service provider address is nothing new, said Wales, and often when it is done, large groups of people sharing the IP address of the person banned can be affected.

"An IP number was blocked for less than 12 hours," he said. "There was and is nothing special about this. We do it all the time, and often do it for IP numbers that affect far more people than this one."

Online community contributes, edits

Wales said Wikipedia, which allows the online community to write and editthe encyclopedia, typically receives about seven edits per day that originate from the Qatar IP address.

Wales also posted a response on Wikipedia's site on Tuesday, saying to block an entire nation "would require approval of at a minimum the English arbitration committee and/or me personally, and would never ever be undertaken lightly, nor without extensive attempts at direct negotiation with the ISP and/or nation in question."

Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, is home to 165,000 internet users, according to 2005 figures from the International Telecommunication Union. It is also home to the Al-Jazeera television network.

Qatar is not the only country with just one IP address, Wales said, adding Wikipedia had no intention of changing its open editing policies in any way.

Wikipedia has become a popular alternative information source on the Internet, but it has also been controversial because its open editing policy has left it susceptible to abuse from users.