Russian Wikipedia Shuts Down In Protest Of Censorship Bill

Wikipedia’s Russian site has gone dark for 24 hours to protest a censorship bill headed to the Russian parliament today.

Russian Wikipedia is replicating the site’s January 18 black-out in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills here in the United States, which replaced its usual homepage with an explanation of the controversial Internet policing proposals. Today, visitors to the Russian Wikipedia are greeted with a message saying, according to a translation by BBC News:

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 Information Act, according to the Associated Press, “would give the Russian government sweeping powers to blacklist certain sites, the latest in a flurry of legislation that appears aimed at neutering a growing opposition movement that has protested President Vladimir Putin’s rule.” Defenders of the bill claim it is meant to protect children from pornography and other unsavory websites. The law was introduced by lawmakers from Putin’s party and will almost definitely pass.

Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov tweeted in response to the black-out: “I do not support the idea of shutting down Wikipedia. Its step is an important reaction by the web community which says that the law [submitted to the Duma] needs to be improved.”

Unlike China, the Russian government has mostly left Internet access unregulated. Anton Nossik, media director of Russia’s most popular blogging platform, told the AP:

For the past 12 years I was sure that the Russian government was smart enough not to censor the Internet. Now they are scattering any doubt that Russia is on the path of government regulation that is senseless and ruthless.

Russia has been rocked by protests since Putin won the presidency in a contest called a “fraud” by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In response, Putin has used the law to crush opposition to his presidency. Last month, new laws meant to restrict public assembly were met with huge demonstrations in the streets, where tens of thousands of Russians calling for “Russia without Putin.”