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As Russian Internet providers start blocking Wikipedia, the banned entry is taken off blacklist

Stanislav Kozlovsky, head of the Russian chapter of Wikimedia, announced in a tweet that the Kremlin’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor has taken the Wikipedia entry on charas out of its internet blacklist. This means that Wikipedia website is officially no longer blocked in Russia.

The Roskomnadzor notice, which Kozlovsky uploaded online, does not explain why the entry was unblocked.

On the day that Roskomnadzor issued its notice on unblocking the charas entry, some Russian internet providers already started carrying out yesterday’s orders to block Wikipedia. Many users in Russia had no access to Wikipedia on the morning of August 25.

Suddenly a notice came from Roskomnadzor saying that the Wikipedia entry “Charas” has been removed from the registry of forbidden websites:

A court in the Russian city of Astrakhan ruled that the Wikipedia entry of “charas,” a narcotic substance, should be banned. Roskomnadzor contacted Wikipedia’s administrators, asking them to take down the entry and threatening to block Wikipedia entirely if demands are not met.

Initially, Wikipedia announced it refuses to restrict access to the entry on “charas.” Rozkomnadzor thus entered Wikipedia into its registry of banned websites, adding its URL to a special official “out-load” list. Internet providers are supposed to download this database two times a day, at 9 a.m. and at 9 p.m. Then the providers have to block the webpages in the list, so that their clients can’t access them. On the morning of August 25, some internet providers already began blocking Wikipedia.

On August 24, Wikipedia users changed the URL of its banned entry and changed the entry name from “Charas” to “Charas (narcotic substance).” The old URL, which had been listed in the court ruling, now leads to a disambiguation page. Yet even after this change, Russian newspaper newspaper Izvestia reported that officials were still planning to ban Wikipedia entirely.

This marked the first time a Russian court has banned content on Wikipedia. In the past, only two policing agencies (Russia's Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, and the Federal Drug Control Service) have banned Wikipedia content.

Earlier in August, Roskomnadzor briefly banned the popular website Reddit. The offending content was a page titled, "Minimal and Reliable Methods for Growing Psilocybe [Mushrooms]." Because Reddit uses https protocol for secure communication, many Russian Internet providers (perhaps 30 percent, according to Roskomnadzor) would have blocked the website in its entirety. It is unclear why Roskomnadzor, in its threat against Wikipedia, implies that https would require the entire website to be blocked for more than 30 percent of Russian Internet users.

Read more on how Russian Internet censorship works here.

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