Wikipedia’s Upcoming Search Engine to Rival Google; Offer Full Transparency

Wikipedia's Upcoming Search Engine to Rival Google; Offer Full Transparency

Wikipedia may soon have its own search engine. Its parent company, Wikimedia Foundation was granted a sum of $250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.7 crores) late last year, an announcement which was only made available to the public this month. Dubbed Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia, the San Francisco-based non-profit organisation is building a search engine to provide “a system for discovering reliable and trustworthy public information on the Internet.” But for “the Internet’s first transparent search engine” to exist, it will have to hurdle through some roadblocks.

The Wikimedia Foundation was awarded $250,000 in November last year from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The search engine will allow users to discover material located on Wikipedia and its sister websites. The search engine is poised to rival Alphabet’s Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and other commercial search engines.

The Wikimedia Foundation insists that the Knowledge Engine will be open and transparent about how a piece of information originates and allow access to metadata. The Wikipedia’s search engine will also protect user privacy, stay away from advertisements, and give emphasis to the community building and sharing of information.

“Today, commercial search engines dominate search-engine use of the Internet, and they’re employing proprietary technologies to consolidate channels of access to the Internet’s knowledge and information,” Wikimedia Foundation describes. “Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia will democratise the discovery of media, news and information – it will make the Internet’s most relevant information more accessible and openly curated, and it will create an open data engine that’s completely free of commercial interests.”

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While that sounds good, the issue with the search engine is the level of secrecy Wikimedia Foundation has imposed on it. Volunteers who work hours on the project on a daily basis weren’t aware of the issue until the document was made available to the public. The issue is seeing the Wikipedia community and Wikimedia Foundation drift apart from each other.

“There’s been increasing alienation of the community from the foundation,” William Beutler, a long-time Wikipedia editor, journalist for The Wikipedian blog told Motherboard. “The community is this volunteer group that is made up of people who largely buy into Wikipedia for ideological reasons. Then you have the foundation, which has increasingly fewer people from the community and a larger Silicon Valley contingent that comes from a tech background. “[…] It seems like there’s been a culture clash,” he said. “And this is the most destructive manifestation of that culture clash.”

For a media institution that puts the transparency over everything, the way it has handled information about its upcoming search engine shows the other side of the Wikimedia Foundation. There’s no word on when we can expect the search engine to be ready.

Amazon Acquires Indian Payments Processor Emvantage

Amazon Acquires Indian Payments Processor Emvantage

Amazon Inc said it has acquired Indian payments processor Emvantage Payments Pvt Ltd for an undisclosed sum.

Emvantage’s employees will join Amazon’s India unit that will use the company’s technology on its e-commerce website, Amazon said in a statement.

Amazon has been rapidly expanding into India’s fast growing e-commerce segment that is likely to grow to $220 billion (roughly Rs. 15,04,800 crores) by value of goods sold by 2025.

Tata Group’s retail firm Trent Ltd last week said online retail giant Amazon has picked up 26 percent stake in its publishing arm Westland for Rs. 9.5 crores.

“The investor would subscribe to Westland’s share capital such that it holds 26 percent of the Westland’s share capital on a fully diluted basis, for an aggregate amount of approximately Rs. 9.5 crores,” Trent Ltd said in a BSE filing.

Under the definitive agreements signed by Trent, Amazon.com NV Investment Holding LLC and Westland, Amazon will have a right to appoint a director on the Board of Westland and also have the option to acquire the remaining 74 percent of shares at a later date.

Rival Snapdeal on Monday announced it had raised $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,362 crores), giving it a valuation of around $6.5 billion (roughly Rs. 44,457 crores). The firm is looking to ramp up investments in logistics and infrastructure in the fast-growing domestic e-commerce sector.

The fundraising, led by Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and funds advised by Iron Pillar, comes at a time when there are increasing worries about incremental funding among Indian startups.

In December, Snapdeal co-founder had told Reuters the company is looking to increase spending on logistics and technology to better compete with rivals.

China to Tighten Control Over Internet Content

China to Tighten Control Over Internet Content

China’s plans to tighten internet censorship will continue with a new measure which will come into effect from next month and will involve content published by foreign companies and their joint ventures in the country.

From March onwards, foreign firms will not be permitted to publish their “creative” content online in China without prior approval of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, EFE news reported on Tuesday.

The new measure also empowers local governments to monitor the publications of these companies.

According to experts in Hong Kong – which enjoys a greater freedom of the press than the mainland, the measure is a further attempt by Beijing to control the internet.

An earlier law dating back to 2002 allowed foreign firms to publish creative content directly on the internet.

During the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, in Zhejiang last year, President Xi Jinping had called for greater “order” in the management of the internet.

China, with a strong censorship system known as the Great Firewall, has imposed more restrictions on the internet since Xi assumed power three years ago, and approved a controversial national cyber security law that, for the first time, speaks of protecting “cyber sovereignty”.

Russia’s Internet Censorship Grew Nine-Fold in 2015: Rights Group

Russia's Internet Censorship Grew Nine-Fold in 2015: Rights Group

Internet censorship in Russia soared last year as the government stepped up efforts to filter content online, a report by a rights group said Tuesday.

Titled “The Triumph of Censorship,” the report by Agora, a respected group of human rights lawyers, counted media reports and government statements about blocked web pages as well as prosecutions of people for what they posted online.

The group found incidents of Internet censorship increased from 1,019 in 2014 to 9,022 in 2015.

This included bans on online content issued by courts as well as similar decisions by government agencies that do not require court approval.

Russia blacklists web pages for extremist content or making calls to join an unsanctioned rally, as well as for posting child pornography or information about committing suicide or making illegal drugs.

Russia has also prosecuted a growing number of individuals for posting information online.

“The number of people sentenced to actual prison terms for expressing their opinion on the web has multiplied,” the report said.

One of the authors, rights lawyer Damir Gainutdinov, said he expects the degree of Internet censorship to intensify this year.

“There will be more prison terms,” he told AFP. “They will attempt to block announcements of demonstrations.”

The government is also likely to crack down on those who publish tips for circumventing bans and filters such as by using VPNs or dark web browsers and to increase pressure on foreign companies such as Twitter and Facebook, he said.

The government “fine-tuned” its methods of filtering content in 2015, leading to a race of sorts among different regions to report the most blocked material, the report said.

Russian courts are “rubber-stamping decisions about banning information” while prosecutors boast of removing extremist materials from thousands of sites, it said.

“Prison terms for posting ‘likes’ and shares (on social media) are meant to frighten people and make them stop discussing social problems,” the report said.

It named taboo topics as the conflict in Ukraine and corruption among government officials as well as LGBT rights and those of religious believers.

Gainutdinov however said the government’s goal was not to introduce a total Internet filter, which would be too expensive, but to make access to information too difficult.

“The goal is to have most people give up and go back to watching television,” which is overwhelmingly state-controlled, he said.