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Wikipedia Finds Way to Beat Gov't Censorship Using HTTPS (Encryption)

"Knowledge is power," as the old saying goes, so it's no surprise that Wikipedia—one of the largest repositories of general knowledge ever created—is a frequent target of government censorship around the world. In Turkey, the entire site has been blocked in all languages since April 29; Russia has censored articles about weed; in the UK, articles about German metal bands have been blocked; in China, the entire site has been banned on multiple occasions.

Determining how to prevent these acts of censorship has long been a priority for the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, and thanks to new research from the Harvard Center for Internet and Society, the foundation seems to have found a solution: encryption.

In 2011, Wikipedia added support for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which is the encrypted version of its predecessor HTTP. Both of these protocols are used to transfer data from a website's server to the browser on your computer, but when you try to connect to a website using HTTPS, your browser will first ask the web server to identify itself. Then the server will send its unique public key which is used by the browser to create and encrypt a session key. This session key is then sent back to the server which it decrypts with its private key. Now all data sent between the browser and server is encrypted for the remainder of the session.

In short, HTTPS prevents governments and others from seeing the specific page users are visiting. For example, a government could tell that a user is browsing Wikipedia, but couldn't tell that the user is specifically reading the page about Tiananmen Square.


  • GrumpyGuyGrumpyGuy Member
    edited May 2017
    Wikipedia is a fantastic tool, so I'm glad there are ways for people whose governments want them to be uneducated to get around censorship.

    Speaking of HTTPS, Matt - any way to switch this site to using it, or is that something decided by the forum host company?  I use the HTTPS Everywhere plugin for Firefox but noted it doesn't do anything here.
  • Matt_ADMIN_Matt_ADMIN_ Administrator
    There probably is, yes
    "...Say, 'GOD is sufficient for me.' In Him the trusters shall trust." (Quran 39:38)
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