TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The editors of Wikipedia last month finally came to a consensus that Taiwan is indeed a country instead of a "state."
Over the years, the Wikipedia entry for Taiwan has frequently been a target of vandalism by Chinese nationalists and China apologists seeking to demote Taiwan's status as a sovereign, independent country. In a request for comments (RFC) page created to debate the proper status of Taiwan in its Wikipedia entry, editors in May fiercely debated the merits of referring to Taiwan as a "state" or a "country."
The debate boiled down to a battle over "state" versus "country" as the best term to provide a more neutral point of view (NPOV) for Taiwan. The criteria the editors decided to base their decision on was "what is commonly used?" and "what is the most accurate?"
Those arguing for the term "state" claimed that because many global organizations do not recognize Taiwan to be an independent country, the term "state" would be more accurate. Pro-"state" editors also alleged that the term was more commonly used by the media.
Proponents of "country" pointed out that Taiwan is a de facto country because it has its own military, currency, passport, constitution, internet TLC, telephone country code, and democratically elected government, making the term more accurate. Editors also found that "country" is used far more frequently than '"state" in English media across the globe.
After a month of heated back and forth, the RFC was closed for discussion on May 24 and a vote was cast. In a summary of the exchange posted on June 4, a numeric majority was reached with 33 editors voting in favor of "country," 10 opting for "state," and five others choosing a variant of "state."
Several other terms were considered, such as "island nation," but the clear winner in terms of votes was still "country." In the summary, Wikipedia user Hobit wrote that the editors came to a general consensus that "country would be more clear to the U.S. audience."
In May, the page was made "semi-protected," meaning that if a Wikipedia user wants to make changes, they must first create an account, and only after four days and 10 edits, can they modify the page. This makes it more difficult for Chinese trolls to vandalize the page, but not impossible as China has up to 100,000 soldiers in its "hacker army."
The sustainability of open-source information platforms such as Wikipedia comes into question given that its editors are unpaid volunteers, while large countries such as China have deep pockets and large cyberwarfare teams to continue to push their political agenda.