- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Russian censors this week briefly ordered Internet Service Providers to restrict access to Wikipedia due to an entry on charas, a type of cannabis. The online encyclopedia was officially added to the Kremlin’s blacklist on Monday and was removed within hours.

Roskomnadzor, the government’s online watchdog group, threatened last week to add the offending article to its blacklist because it contained content deemed unlawful by a Russian court. But because Wikipedia uses the secure https protocol to encrypt traffic, select filtering is cumbersome for ISPs, and Roskomnadzor warned “the entire website would be blocked.”

The ban was officially put in place on Monday, and Wikipedia visitors in Russia reported being unable to access the site on Tuesday morning. It marks the first time that Kremlin censors have outright banned content hosted on the site.

“Censorship of Wikipedia content runs contrary to the Wikimedia vision: a world in which everyone can freely access the sum of all knowledge,” Wikimedia, the nonprofit that hosts the website, said in a statement.

Stanislav Kozlovsky, the head of the Russian chapter of the organization, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he had received a notice from Roskomnadzor indicating that the ban had been removed but wasn’t told why.

The Russian government had threatened weeks earlier to block access to all of YouTube because of unlawful content but ultimately balked when the videos were removed. This month, Roskomnadzor briefly ordered ISPs to add Reddit to its nationwide blacklist because of a single, two-year-old post concerning hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Beginning Sept. 1, major Internet companies with users in Russia will be required to store their data within the country. Sites including Facebook and Twitter will be expected to comply, but Roskomnadzor said it will not immediately enforce the rules with the social networking giants.

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