The Russian version of Wikipedia is going dark this week, in protest of proposed legislation that would create a blacklist of government-banned websites. The site, ru.wikipedia.org, went down Tuesday morning and will remain shuttered through July 10th, when the State Duma is scheduled to vote on an amendment to Russia's "Act for Information." If passed in its current form, the amendment would create a federal agency charged with maintaining a list of banned sites. This agency would have the authority to add sites to this blacklist, as would Russian courts.
The bill's supporters say it would allow the government to more efficiently crack down on child pornography or extremist online materials. The amendment already has the endorsement of all four parties in the State Duma, though it's received strong criticism from human rights activists and internet service providers who see it as an overt attempt to censor the web.
"We ask you to support us in the fight against this bill."
Detractors have also argued that the law would prove ineffective as a policing tool, since providers of illegal online content could just as easily move their sites to new domains or IP addresses. Earlier this month, Russia's Human Rights Council assailed the amendment as a burden to the country's RuNet network, claiming it would “negatively affect RuNet’s speed, stability and security.”
Wikipedia, for its part, has likened the policy to China's "great firewall," and is asking users to share this page in the hopes of raising awareness around the issue. “Wikipedia community protests against censorship, which threatens free knowledge opened for mankind,” the organization's statement reads. “We ask you to support us in the fight against this bill."
It's a tactic similar to the one Wikipedia deployed across its English-language websites earlier this year, in response to proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation here in the US. That campaign led to the postponement of debate of both bills, though it remains to be seen whether this approach can pay similar dividends in Russia. The State Duma already approved the bill during its initial reading on July 6th. If it passes the second reading on Wednesday, the bill would go into effect after its third reading, at an undetermined date.