This week, the Russian version of Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours. The BBC reports that users attempting to access the site would see a black line across the site’s logo and an explanation of the shut-down.
The translated message reads like this:
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.
The internet protest was caused by the Russian government’s attempt to pass a new internet censorship law. The country, which has seen a wide variety of legislation pass this year that limits the rights of freedom of expression and freedom to assemble, may now have a new internet censorship law on the books.
Lawmakers were originally meant to review the Acts for Information bill this week in the Duma. Amendments would include the instatement of an official government list of banned sites which would be closely monitored and revised as necessary.
Proponents of the bill claim that such monitoring would decrease the risk of child pornography and the spread of dangerous information about drugs and illicit activities. Opponents argue that such censorship threatens the freedom of knowledge and the free flow of information.
Many protesters of the bill compared this new legislative measure to the Great Firewall in China, where internet censorship is pervasive. Many worry that the law would give authorities too much leeway as to which sites and which users would be blocked from the internet, meaning anyone and everything could be blacklisted at any time. Internet usage is high in larger cities like Moscow, but also in rural areas. 38 percent of the population of Russia reports they use the internet on a daily basis, a number that is on the rise, USA Today notes.
This debate comes on the heels of the announcement made this month by the United Nations Human Council that internet freedom is a basic human right. Citizens from around the world have been reacting to legislation that aims to limit internet freedom over the last year, including the SOPA legislation in the United States.
Wikipedia’s protest appeared to have some effect on Tuesday. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny supported Wikipedia’s move, quoted in the Moscow Times as saying that such a restrictive bill would promote “ideological warfare on the internet.”
Lawmakers also responded to the temporary closure of the site. The Duma has postponed the reading and passing of the bill until the fall session. Leaders still feel certain the bill will pass by November 1, the Moscow Times reports. Many leaders claim they will respond to protests by refining the language of the bill in order for it to pass without a hitch by the end of the year.
Photo Credit: Russian Wikipedia