Clearly unimpressed by Wikipedia’s attempt to combat censorship, Russia reportedly ordered several service providers to block the online encyclopedia throughout the country. The site was blacklisted over a single article on a certain form of cannabis.
The entire ordeal between the user-generated site and Russian media watch dog Roskomnadzor began in a remote southern village called Chyorny Yar, where a prosecutor demanded that the Russian-language Wikipedia entry about charas, a type of hashish, be deleted from the web.
Meanwhile, Chyorny Yar – home to some 8,000 people – appears to have no major problems with drug abuse or cannabis fields, making it unclear as to why authorities found the article concerning. Also, Wikipedia defines charas as a “hashish form of cannabis which is handmade in India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nepal and Jamaica” – places far from the Russian village.
Roskomnazor ordered the site to remove the page, but since it employs HTTP prefixes, single pages cannot be taken down without blocking the entire site. Therefore, instead of deleting the entry, Wikipedia made a small change to the URL, technically complying with the Russian law. The new page featured several definitions of charas and included the original article along with seven other entries.
However, the Russian authorities were still intent on blocking the encyclopedia for refusing to abide by their laws and not removing the page. Although they claim they only wanted to blacklist the charas entry, the HTTP encryption protocol has blocked the entirety of Wikipedia for Russian users.
They did it. Wikipedia now blocked in Russia. pic.twitter.com/kr1ylK6K1S— Simon Kruse (@crusoes) August 24, 2015
Russia has some strict censorship rules when it comes to the Internet. Earlier this month, the officials briefly banned Reddit over a thread containing information about psychedelic mushrooms, though the ban was lifted once Reddit complied with the censorship and removed the post.
“Today, we have heard that Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency tasked with oversight of Russian communications, has instructed ISPs to block Russian Wikipedia. Censorship of Wikipedia content runs contrary to the Wikimedia vision: a world in which everyone can freely access the sum of all knowledge,” Wikimedia Foundation, the parent company of Wikipedia, said in a statement.
It seems like Wikipedia is standing by its decision to not remove the entry that caused all this havoc.
On the other hand, when Roscomnadzor added Wikipedia to its banned websites registry, the online encyclopedia published instructions on how to get around the ban and access the site. Moreover, Russian-language administrators and reviewers will also be allowed to edit the website using proxy services.
Well played, Wikipedia, well played.
Last year, Russia announced plans to launch their own version of Wikipedia as they believe the crowd-sourced encyclopedia spreads false information about them.
Russia has reportedly lifted the short-lived ban on Wikipedia after it caused an uproar among the Russian Internet users.
Roscomnadzor removed the online encyclopedia from the list of banned websites, citing that the information in the drug-related article had been edited. However, Internet users claim that Wikipedia has only renamed its title, the information remains the same.