Wikipedia goes down in Russia in protest at new law

Russia's government wants to be able to blacklist websites. Wikipedia, on the other hand, doesn't. It is because of these two conflicting beliefs that Wikipedia in Russia is down for the day as a form of protest.

Russia's government is one of those topics which is rarely mentioned outside of a joke. While people can name Medvedev and Putin, there is little said about the actual government beyond these two figures. The government seeks the ability to blacklist websites, feeling that it would be beneficial for restricting access to child pornography, teen suicide, and drug information. These all seem logical enough things to want to block, though Wikipedia has likened the government's initiative to the Great Firewall of China. Navigating to Wikipedia in Russian brings up an error message.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, a translation of this message is available. It reads as follows:

The State Duma is expected to hold a second hearing about amendments to the Information Act, which could lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the entire internet in Russia, including banning access to Wikipedia in the Russian language. Today the Wikipedia community voices protest against the introduction of censorship, which is dangerous for the freedom of knowledge - something which must be open-access for all mankind."

This is by no means the first time Wikipedia has closed its doors for a day in order to protest. When SOPA was still active, Wikipedia closed itself to users in both Europe and North America. No doubt, this was a terrible moment for school students needing to complete an essay or homework quickly and easily. By pressing the Escape key on a keyboard while the site was loading you could bypass the block. It seems you can't do that with the closure in Russia.

Today is a vital day to close Wikipedia in Russia. Tomorrow, the 'Information Act' will be taken for a second hearing with the State Duma; Russia's parliament. If the Information Act is approved then the government would have the ability to set up an agency to blacklist sites. Wikipedia feels that they cannot afford to let the government have this power in case they 'selectively' choose sites to blacklist.

In addition, there's a linked page to a Russian Wikimedia page, where the authors describe their reasoning. Again, it's written in Russian, though has been translated. It reads:

Lobbyists and activists who support these amendments claim that they are aimed exclusively against child pornography and 'similar types of content', but if one adheres to the provisions and stipulations of the suggested amendments they would lead to creation of a parallel to the 'Great Firewall of China' in Russia.

It seems to be having an effect, for Putin's advisers, the Russian Human Rights Council, have suggested withdrawing the bill from the Duma. The bill could then be taken into open-public hearings. This would have the bonus of not seeming quite so sinister in its intent, for the public would be able to listen in and understand the intent. If you're interested in finding out more, and can read Cyrillic, you might like to check this Twitter search for 'Wikipedia' and observe what people are saying.

With Wikipedia being one of the most-visited destinations on the internet, the impact of it being rendered unavailable should be visible enough. While the Russian site is one of the smaller languages, with 'only' 838,000 articles, it still receives a significant amount of traffic from Russia for obvious reasons.

Source: BBC News

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