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Russian Internet watchdog orders ISPs to block Wikipedia

The country's Roskomnadzor federal agency has instructed Internet providers to block a page about a kind of cannabis, but most can only block the entire site.


The Russian government has aimed its cyber crosshairs at Wikipedia, ordering the country's Internet service providers to block the widely read online encyclopaedia.

Roskomnadzor, the country's Internet watchdog, made the call after Wikipedia refused to alter a page that was perceived to give instructions on using a form of cannabis.

"Censorship of Wikipedia content runs contrary to the Wikimedia vision: a world in which everyone can freely access the sum of all knowledge," Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs Wikipedia, told TechCrunch on Monday.

On Tuesday, the ban was apparently lifted, according to The New York Times, The Guardian and other press reports.

The Wikipedia article in question is about charas, a handmade hashish form of cannabis. It contains details that are a little too instructional for the Roskomnadzor's comfort.

"We first learned about a possible block last week," Wikimedia told TechCrunch. "The notice stated that the article contained information on how to prepare the substance. The notice directed Wikipedia to remove the article."

It's not the first case of online censorship from Roskomnadzor this month. Two weeks ago it banned Reddit for a day after discovering a two-year-old post about growing psilocybin, or psychadelic mushrooms.

That ban was repealed after roughly 24 hours following Reddit administrators appealing to the agency and choosing to cut off access to the thread in Russia, according to the Washington Post.

Both Reddit and Wikipedia use HTTPS, a more secure Internet protocol that requires ISPs to have specific equipment to block one specific page on the site. Most Russian ISPs lack this equipment, the Washington Post, reported so the entire site would be unavailable to users of ISPs that comply with the government agency.

Wikipedia is available in over 280 languages. The Russian site is one of only 12 around the world with more than 1 million articles.

Update, 6:50 a.m.: The ban has been lifted, according to press reports.