Russia’s Internet oversight agency said Monday that in order to block a contested article about drugs, it would have to block all of Wikipedia.
In the announcement, the government body said that if Wikipedia would not willingly block a Russian-language article about charas, a marijuana product, it would have no other choice than to block access to the entire web site in Russia. The agency is widely known by the Russian abbreviation Roskomnadzor. (RELATED: How Internet Sleuths Tracked Putin Spokesman’s $426,000 Yacht Ride)
The article previously included a description of how the cannabis product is made, which was deemed “illegal information” by Russian federal anti-drug police. In a similar move earlier this month, Russia briefly blocked Reddit over a discussion thread about how to grow hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Wikipedia does not take down individual articles except by user consensus. It uses the HTTPS security protocol, which means pages on its domain cannot be blocked individually. These two policies mean that Roskomnadzor will almost inevitably wind up blocking the entire encyclopedia.
The most recent dispute over the Russian-language edition of Wikipedia arose in June, when a regional court issued an order to block the article in question. Wikipedia’s editors side-stepped the request by changing the article’s URL.
But this does not seem to have been enough for the Kremlin’s censors. According to Wikipedia’s representatives, the site has no intention of removing HTTPS either, saying that “no government agency or internet provider should know which articles Wikipedia users are reading.” (RELATED: US Pressure Leads 6 In 10 Russians To Buy Cheaper Groceries)
The site’s social media outlets are also preparing Russian Wikipedia users for a possible crackdown. On Twitter, @ru_wikipedia spent most of Monday publishing advice, promoting a service that distributes offline copies of Wikipedia and distributing a guide for “what to do when they block Wikipedia.”
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