Wikipedia shuts Russian site in government protest

11/07/2012

Wikipedia has shut down its Russian-language site for 24 hours to protest against a Bill that would give the Russian government sweeping powers to blacklist certain sites. Wikipedia's Russian-language site encouraged users to spread the word about the law and contact their representatives in parliament to lobby against it. The protest comes after a similar shutdown of the English-language site in January to protest against the anti-pirating Stop Online Piracy Act in the US Congress.

Politicians say the Bill, which is to be reviewed in parliament, is designed to protect children.
Supporters say it enables the government to block sites that show child pornography, promote teen suicide, or spread information about drugs.

But critics argue it gives too wide a scope for the government to subjectively select which sites to blacklist.

Russia's internet has until now been relatively unrestrained by government restrictions or firewalls. While anti-government activists or media have often been the victims of hacking attempts in recent years, the government has largely left the internet an unregulated space for political discussion.

The new Bill has provoked a flurry of protest online, with many expressing support for Wikipedia's actions. Three of the top Twitter hash tags in Russia were RuWikiBlackout, Wikipedia and Law No. 89417-6, all of which refer to the legislation. Human rights activists and opposition leaders also loudly criticised the Bill.

Russians in large cities have become accustomed to unfettered access to the internet. In an AP-GfK poll released in June, only 10% of those polled in Moscow said they did not use the internet. Internet use throughout the country is on the rise, with 38% of Russians now using the internet daily, up from 22% just two years ago, according to the Public Opinion Foundation.

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