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Russian Wikipedia goes dark, protests 'great firewall' of Russia

July 10, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • A screen grab from the Russian Wikipedia's website on Tuesday.
A screen grab from the Russian Wikipedia's website on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Wikipedia )

It's blackout time for Wikipedia in Russian.

On Tuesday, the Russian version of Wikipedia went dark for 24 hours to protest a bill making its way through the Russian parliament that Wikipedia says could "create real censorship of the Internet" in the country.

Wikimedia, the nonprofit that oversees Wikipedia, said that the law would make it possible to create "a thing like the great Chinese firewall," giving the Russian government control over the blacklisting and filtering of sites.

Lawmakers who support the bill say it was created to protect children, and will give the government the ability to block sites that feature child pornography, or promote teen suicide, the AP reports.

But Wikimedia isn't buying it.

"The existing Russian law's practice shows the high possibility of the worst scenario, in which Wikipedia soon will be closed in the whole country," Wikimedia said in a statement.

And so on Tuesday, Wikipedia staged a similar protest to the one it staged in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills back in January. It shut its site down for a full day.

Visitors to the Russian Wikipedia site on Tuesday will see the Wikipedia logo made almost invisible by a heavy black line running through it and the following message in giant letters: "Imagine a world without free knowledge." 

Below that are a couple of paragraphs that explain the protest. An English translation by Google Translate reads:

"The State Duma will [hold] a second hearing to amend the 'Law of Information,' which can lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the Internet in Russia, including the closure of access to Wikipedia in Russian. 

"Today, the Wikipedia community protests against censorship, dangerous to free knowledge, open to all mankind. We ask that you support in opposing this bill."

Whether or not the protest will work remains to be seen, but supporters of Wikipedia may feel encouraged by Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov's response to the blackout.  He tweeted that while he doesn't support Wikipedia's decision to go dark, it is an important community response and a sign that the bill could be improved.

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