Wikipedia's Russian website has declared a 24-hour-long blackout and boycott in protest against a child protection bill which they say would lead to Internet censorship in that country.
While everyone understands the importance of child protection, Russian-language Wikipedia feels that the government is taking things too far and that this legislation could amount to Internet censorship.
Russian Wikipedia has declared a 24-hour-long boycott in protest against the child protection bill and its front page today carries a notice of the blackout, while its headline is covered by a black censorship rectangle, as seen in the image above.
At present only a few of some 838,000 articles are available on the Russian version of Wikipedia, and all of these are related to censorship and the cause of the boycott and blackout.
The boycott comes as the Russian Parliament discusses a bill, which would amend several Russian federal laws related to regulation of information.
The bill's sponsors say they want to better protect children from potentially harmful information on the Internet. This includes web pages advocating suicide, excessively risky behavior, substance abuse and child pornography.
The bill, which is currently under discussion in the Russian parliament, seeks to introduce a non-governmental Internet watchdog, to monitor the Internet for potentially harmful content and then to request hosting companies to restrict access to those pages. If the hosting companies refuse to do this, the page would then be blacklisted. The bill would also give stricter provisions for parental guidance ratings of content.
Members of the Russian Wikipedia community have joined with other critics of the bill. They believe that the blacklist of websites with "not-for-children" content that this bill would introduce, would result in censorship of the Internet.
The statement on the Wikipedia Russian home page reads, “Lobbyists and activists supporting the amendments claim they are only aimed against content like child pornography and ‘similar things’, but strict adherence to the wording of the bill proposed for consideration will result in the creation in Russia of a system similar to the ‘Great Firewall of China’.”
They add that, if this legislation is approved, access to Wikipedia online encyclopaedia would most likely be cut all across Russia.
Wikipedia is not alone, as several other Internet giants operating in Russia, including Yandex, Google and Mail.Ru have called for a public scrutiny of the bill.
Even Russia's Information Minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, has voiced doubt over the new legislation, stating that it had a dubious enforcement mechanism.
The Presidential Council for Human Rights, along with other rights organizations, have criticized the bill, stating that it would lack efficiency in protecting children from inappropriate content and would fail to provide necessary safeguards against Internet censorship.
Last year, the Italian Wikipedia community held a similar online protest against a restrictive bill in national parliament.
In January of this year, English-language Wikipedia and thousands of other Internet giants, had a similar blackout in protest of the SOPA and PIPA bills in the U.S. Congress and Senate. This move was done to protest the bills, which they said would empower governmental agencies and intellectual property owners beyond reason and would be greatly damage the Internet as a result. Both bills have since been shelved.