- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015

Russia’s federal Internet regulator has lifted a ban on Reddit, one of most popular websites in the world, after briefly blocking access to the entire site because of a 2-year-old post containing instructions for growing psychedelic mushrooms.

Roskomnadzor, the Kremlin’s media watchdog agency, said on Thursday that it had removed Reddit from a nationwide blacklist after the website complied with the government’s request to find a way to restrict local access to certain “forbidden information,” according to an English-language translation.

Meduza, a Russian-centric newsite often critical of the Kremlin’s policies, reported that the offending post was titled “Minimal and Reliable Methods for Growing Psilocybe” and contained instructions for harvesting psychedelic mushrooms. The post, which was published in April 2013, is still available outside of the Russian Internet.

Roskomnadzor said earlier in the week through its account on VKontakte, a Russian social networking site, that it had reached out to Reddit to complain about the post but was unable to contact any of the site’s administrators.

“We assume that the website is simply understaffed during the summer holidays, but this is no excuse to risk [losing] its entire audience [in Russia],” the agency said.

Russia has enacted a series of increasingly restrictive rules for what is allowed on the Internet under the regime of President Vladimir Putin. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a U.S.-based digital rights group, said it believes legislation that has allowed the Kremlin to block access to certain sites, including news portals, “violates its citizens right to freedom of expression.”

The regulator said on Monday that it had been asked by the Federal Drug Control Service to block access to the post in question, and that any failure to act on behalf of Reddit would cause the entire website — and some 9,000 forums — to be inaccessible on Russia due to the nature of the underlying technology.

The ban went into effect on Wednesday, but Reddit was back online the following day after the site apparently took measures to keep the offending content off of the screens of computers connected to Internet Protocol [IP] addresses in Russia.

During the blackout, the author of the post, “rsocfan,” wrote that he would not delete the 2-year-old instructional guide.

“Will I remove this post? No. I also think that Reddit administration needs to do nothing. This is important issue on freedom of speech, and only [Roskomnadzor] want to violate it,” the poster wrote in English.

Additionally, the poster noted that the attention generated by the ban had made his mushroom-growing guide more popular than ever.

“I’m not sure if any people saw this before blocking, but if you are here and you can read Russian, now you know to grow some shrooms, thanks to [Roskomnadzor],” he wrote.

On VKontakte, the watchdog said it hopes Reddit “will continue to listen to the demands of regulatory authorities Russia in the interests of large Russian audience,” according to a translation.

Reddit is the 31st most popular website in the world, according to Alexa, an Internet analytics site, and No. 163 in Russia. Last month, Roskommandzor threatened to add YouTube to its blacklist due to copyright protected videos that had been uploaded to the website by its users.

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