The Russian government has instructed all ISPs in the country to block Russian Wikipedia following their denied request to remove a post about preparing narcotics.
"Today, we have heard that Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency tasked with oversight of Russian communications, has instructed ISPs to block Russian Wikipedia. Censorship of Wikipedia content runs contrary to the Wikimedia vision: a world in which everyone can freely access the sum of all knowledge," the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and other projects, said in a statement.
Russian Wikipedia currently boasts over a million articles that garner over a billion page views per month.
Wikimedia detailed the subject of the offending article in a statement sent to TechCrunch:
We first learned about a possible block last week, when Roskomnadzor issued a notice regarding an article on Russian Wikipedia about charas, a form of cannabis. The notice stated that the article contained information on how to prepare the substance. The notice directed Wikipedia to remove the article.
The Roskomnadzor, which is essentially Russia's FCC, has been cracking the whip on posts regarding drug use as of late. Earlier this month, the department briefly banned Reddit to many users in the country following the publication of a post that detailed how to grow psychedelic mushrooms. In that situation, Reddit immediately complied with the Russian government and blocked Russian access to the post and was subsequently unbanned.
The situation here is a lot different. First off, The Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit that allows them to be a bit more outspoken on free-speech issues in the face of government intrusions. Next, the decision on how to proceed is not in the hands of the Wikimedia board members and is instead being navigated by the actual editors of Russian Wikipedia.
According to Wikimedia, the Russian Wikipedia editors are currently debating how to best move forward in this situation, after already looking to tighten up the article in question in ways that maintain their own standards.
"The Russian Wikipedia community has held active discussions regarding the notice and article. Editors have made significant changes to the article, adding further information and citations to reliable sources, bringing it in line with Wikipedia's standards for neutrality and reliability. The community has also added a notification banner to Russian Wikipedia, pointing out to users that the site may be blocked."
TechCrunch has reached out for a comment from the editors of Russian Wikipedia and will update as the situation develops.