Russian version of Wikipedia in protest over Internet censorship
The Russian version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia closed its site yesterday in a one-day protest against what it said were plans by President Vladimir Putin to create his own version of the “Great Chinese Firewall”
To block dissent on the Internet.
Supporters of amendments to Russia’s information law, which were proposed by the ruling United Russia party and will be discussed in Parliament today, say changes are needed to protect children from harmful sites.
But leaders of anti-Putin protests say the new law could shut down websites in Russia such as Facebook and Twitter without a court order and is meant to stop their opposition movement, which is organized via social networking sites.
“These amendments may become a basis for real censorship on the Internet — forming a list of forbidden sites and IP addresses,” Russian Wikipedia said in a statement.
“The following provisions and wording undertaken for discussion would lead to the creation of a Russian equivalent of the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’ ... in which access to Wikipedia could soon be closed across the entire country.” The changes to the information law would give government officials power to request the closure of Internet pages without a court order simply by blacklisting them. China has some of the most effective methods of blocking dissent on the Internet, tightly controlling what can and cannot be viewed.
Under the changes proposed in Russia, if a website owner does not remove the content that is deemed inappropriate, access to the entire website in Russia can be blocked.
Opposition leaders and ordinary Russians have used Facebook, Twitter and Russian networking site Vkontakte to organize protests and distribute anti-Putin information since protests began over alleged violations in parliamentary elections last December.
“This is basically an attempt to infiltrate the opposition’s last bastion - the Internet. It’s an attempt to kill the protest movement which depends on the Internet. To me it spells out ‘China’ which looks like the direction in which we’re heading,” said opposition activist Natalia Pelevine.