Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 07/10/2012

Russian Wikipedia shut down to protest ‘censorship’ bill

In a move that echoes the American anti-Stop Online Piracy Act blackouts from earlier this year, Wikipedia shut down its Russian page on Tuesday in a 24-hour protest against a proposed bill that would grant the Russian government power to blacklist certain Web sites.

The Russian page now displays a black “censored” rectangle over the Wikipedia nameplate. A statement warns that the Russian parliament will hold “a second hearing to amend the ‘Law of Information,’ which can lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the Internet in Russia, including the loss of access to Wikipedia in Russian.” The hearing is slated for Wednesday, according to the Guardian.

“The bill's backers, from Putin's United Russia party, argue that the amendments to the country's information legislation would target child pornography and sites that promote drug use and teen suicide. But critics, including Russian-language Wikipedia, warned that it could be used to boost government censorship over the internet,” the Guardian reported.

The Wikipedia statement warned that following the wording of the proposed amendment would result in a Russian equivalent of “the Great Chinese firewall,” for a country that has so far had relatively unrestricted Internet access.

In an interview with the Post, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he had only heard about the shutdown yesterday, but he hopes that the protesters “achieve a positive impact.”

“One of the things that tends to rally people is the conditions that allow us to do our work are really important,” Wales said. “Anything that makes it diffuclt for volunteers to share knowledge is anathema to us.”

Opponents of the bill took to Twitter with the hashtags "RuWikiBlackout," ''Wikipedia," and "Law No. 89417-6.” A Twitter user with the handle King of Magic posted a photo of the iconic Wikipedia logo with the words, “Many have learned more here than they have in 10 years of schooling.”
(Screenshot: Twitter)

Some took a lighter approach: Blogger PupkinZ posted a comic that portrays the Russian Duma choosing to shutter Wikipedia rather than tackling corruption, increasing pensions or a host of other reforms.
(Screenshot: Twitter)

Opposition leader Ilya Yashin urged those “who are against censorship” to support the movement by sending an appeal to the State Duma.

.Russian officials did not issue a public comment about the bill, but the AP reports that it is likely to pass. If it does, the measure would be the newest in a series of bills aimed at stifling dissent: The parliament has just approved a bill that would place restrictions on NGOs that engage in any activity that “influences” public opinion and that receive foreign financial backing.

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