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News

Russian media watchdog ready to block Wikipedia over drugs article

Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor is poised to block Wikipedia, despite the online encyclopedia's attempts to avoid censorship.

On 20 August, Roskomnadzor announced that it had ordered Wikipedia to prohibit its Russian users from accessing an article about charas hashish, after the website management refused to remove information about preparation of the drug. The media censor warned that if Wikipedia did not comply with the order, it would be banned entirely.

Wikipedia nevertheless did not restrict Russian access to the page, and instead enacted a small change to the URL of the charas hashish article, bringing it technically into compliance with Russian law. The original page now features a list of seven different Wikipedia entries on the meanings of the word “charas”, while the original text about charas hashish is completely intact, but is now accessible at a new URL on the encyclopedia's website.

It has been reported that Roskomnadzor still plans to block Wikipedia, however, if the management refuses to remove the website’s HTTPS encryption protocol. In a statement, representatives of the online encyclopedia affirmed that they have no intention of doing so, as “no state institutions or internet service providers should have the means to know what the website's users are reading”.

Roskomnadzor’s actions are in accordance with an earlier court decision, which ruled that the offending page violates the Russian law that prohibits “promotion” of illegal drug use. Earlier this month, Roskomnadzor blocked access to some parts of social news site Reddit because of content promoting the use of “magic mushrooms”.

Wikipedia is one of many websites to find itself under scrutiny in Russia. Last year Roskomnadzor asked Twitter to remove 121 posts, while Facebook restricted 84 posts based on requests from the media watchdog.