Russia blocked and then unblocked Wikipedia across the country on Monday, following through on a promise to ban the entire site if it did not remove an article on Charas, a hashish form of cannabis.
"[We have] sent telecom operators the index page of the Russian-language Wikipedia for blocking . . . [It] contains forbidden information about narcotic substances," said Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Internet watchdog, the Financial Times reported
Less than a day later, however, the site was unblocked, with Roskomnadzor saying it was satisfied with changes made to the Charas article.
According to the Times, the ban temporarily took "a Kremlin crackdown on the Internet to a new level. It is the first time that the government has targeted an international website used by ordinary Russians on a huge scale rather than online media critical of the regime of President Vladimir Putin."
Ever since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012, Moscow has intensified its control of the media, and taken increasingly drastic censorship measures. Just two months after Putin regained control, he signed into law the creation of a nationwide registry of banned websites. In 2013, Parliament passed a law allowing websites to be blocked without a court order.
Next week, new government rules will take effect, forcing Internet companies to store all data related to Russian users within the country's borders — a move that will likely affect sites like Twitter and Facebook.
According to The Washington Post
, executives at Wikipedia have long negotiated the content of individual articles to bring them in-line with the government's wishes. In the past, this included pages on drugs and suicide.
In the latest flap over the Charas article, however, Stanislav Kozlovskiy, executive director of the Wikimedia foundation in Russia, said there was no communication.
"It was a dialogue in previous cases," he said. "We tried to call them but were told that the press officer is on vacation and no one else is authorized to talk to us. They preferred to communicate via statements on the Internet instead."
"We could have been blocked every day since 2012, and now it seems like this day has come," he added.
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