Wikipedia Shuts Russia Site, Protests Net Censorship Bill

Written by Gina Smith

ED note: Back in the USSR — music video below the fold. Wikipedia shut down the Russian version of its site — in protest of a proposed firewall in Russia that would limit the spread of information there.

Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales was not available for comment at this writing.

But it’s consistent. Wikimedia founder Wales had stood up loudly against SOPA, CISPA and PIPA — three bills that threatened to censor U.S. Internet use in the name of copyright protection or national security.

Will outcry in Russia be as effective in Russia as it was in forcing SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act of 2011) down. Thousands of sites — even journalism sites, surprisingly — blacked out in protest. And countless net users protested online in a variety of ways.

The din was so rancorous that even the bill’s backers backed down.

See this excerpt from the Europe edition of The New York Times just out July 11, 2012. Or read the full story HERE.

The new measure is part of a wider effort by the Russian authorities to crack down on the opposition since President Vladimir V. Putin’s inauguration in May. They have adopted a law sharply increasing financial penalties on protesters who take part in unsanctioned rallies, begun criminal investigations into several political opposition leaders and considered a plan to require nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign aid to register as foreign agents and face additional auditing and reporting requirements.

With television networks in Russia — and most newspapers and other media outlets — under tight government control, the Internet has emerged as the primary medium for political discourse. Citizens using cellphone cameras documented fraud in last December’s parliamentary elections, then posted video to YouTube and other sites. Organizers of the huge anti-government protests that followed turned to Facebook and other social media to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators on to the streets of Moscow.

The bill has been moving quickly through the Duma, the lower house of Parliament. An initial version was approved last week and a second version, including some amendments, is scheduled for debate in the chamber on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Wikipedia was joined in opposing the legislation by Yandex, the Russian search engine, and Live Journal, the country’s most popular blog-hosting site, which provides a platform for a number of Russia’s most outspoken political commentators and opponents of Mr. Putin’s government.

GS DISCLOSURE: This writer sits on a not for profit board with Jimmy Wales, Jim Clark, Kami Huyse and Andrea Weckerle — is out to curb hate speech and reputation attacks online.