'Don't mention my friendship with Tony Blair'! Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales bans discussion of former PM in new controversy over Kazakh linksWikimedia Foundation works with Kazakh government-linked foundation on their own version of the siteThe regime was this month accused of 'growing crackdown on free speech' by Human Rights WatchMr Wales also questioned about links with Blair, who attended his wedding and with whom he has holidayed
13:55 GMT, 24 December 2012
Censorship: Jimmy Wales, co-founder of
Wikipedia, shut down a discussion of his links to Tony Blair and
Kazakhstan on his Talk Page on the website
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has censored critics from his page on the website after they questioned his friendship with Tony Blair and work with the authoritarian Kazakh regime.
Mr Wales shut down a discussion about the links on his Talk Page and said criticism of his relationship with the former PM and his work with Kazakhstan had become 'absurd'.
The Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit group that runs Wikipedia – last year set up a foundation with Kazakhstan's government to create material for a Kazakh version of the site.
But Wikipedia contributors in the West have questioned whether Mr Wales and the foundation should support a project backed by a government accused of mounting a 'growing crackdown on free speech' by Human Rights Watch.
Mr Wales also came under fire from one contributor for his friendship with former PM Mr Blair, who was a guest at his wedding in October and with whom he has holidayed on Richard Branson's private Caribbean island.
Mr Blair is an advisor to the Kazakh regime, which has been ruled ruled by autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev since before the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union over two decades ago.
In April last year, President Nazarbayev was re-elected to another five-year term receiving 95.54 per cent of the vote with 89.9 per cent of registered voters participating.
The Wikimedia Foundation has been collaborating with Kazakhstan's government in the running of WikiBilim, a Kazakh version of Wikipedia run by Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, a former government official.
WIKIPEDIA IN DECLINE
The number of new administrators on Wikipedia has fallen dramatically since what might be considered the site's 'heyday' of 2007.
Administers are able to delete posts, block editors and protect pages, and are one of the site's most valuable assets, particularly on controversial topics such as religious controversy or breaking news stories.
But The Atlantic, reporting from the Wikimania conference held in Washington over the summer, said that the number of administrators and editors were dropping.
Writing for The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer said: 'In October 2005, Wikimedia promoted 67 people to become sysops. 2005 and 2006 were filled with months like this, where 40 or 50 people would become administrators – but since then, their numbers have been dropping off. A few years ago, Wikipedia's oldest stewards started to worry: The number of administrators promoted every month was skidding in the high single digits.
'Volunteer editing of Wikipedia is on a long decline. The number of editors peaked in 2007 and has been falling since. Lots of people know this.'
It provided a $16,600 grant from Wikipedia visitor donations to the organisation – also backed by Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund – and Mr Wales last year named Mr Kenzhekhanuly the first 'Wikipedian of the Year'.
Nevertheless, Mr Wales last week denied his work in Kazakhstan or that of the Wikimedia Foundation supported the Nazarbayev regime.
'My position on working with companies
and organization in difficult jurisdictions is, I think, thoughtful and
nuanced,' he said as he announced the shut down of the discussion over
the links on his Talk Page.
Kazakhstan, there is a great group of volunteer editors – just like you
- who are working in a non-political way with their own government to
transition an older encyclopedia into Wikipedia, as well as to recruit
quality volunteers,' he added.
'Like many people, I have concerns about potential problems, but so far I have been pleased with what I have seen.'
added in a separate discussion on Quora that 'no one has produced any
evidence of any kind of manipulation of Kazakh Wikipedia', the Telegraph
Tony Blair greets Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev inDowning Street: The former PM now has a contract to advise Nazarbayev's regime which is worth a reported $13million (8million)
Mr Wales also hit back at critics who raised questions over his friendship with Mr Blair, whose contract for advising the Nazarbayev regime is worth a reported $13million.
'I have nothing to do with his consulting in Kazakhstan, and I have many political (and religious) disagreements with him, which I'm quite open about,' Mr Wales said.
'I have lots of friends, many from difficult countries, many who are politicians, and I don't necessarily agree with everything they say (nor do they agree with me).
'But frankly, my personal life has absolutely nothing to do with Kazakhstan.'
Mr Wales's links to the controversial former prime minister was raised by prolific UK-based Wikipedia contributor Andreas Kolbe.
Mr Wales told him to 'stay off' his talk page, adding: 'I've had enough of you. I'll delete anything you post there, and if you persist, I'll ask others to help delete anything you post there.'