In a move about control over the subversive power of the internet, Wikipedia was banned by Russian authorities for a brief period Monday. The entry regarding hashish ran afoul of a court in a small Russian town when it was decided that a Wikipedia page about charas, an Indian form of hashish, should be banned due to it’s harmful content.
Russia recently passed legislation that bans websites from containing information they deem harmful to its citizens, including information about drugs, suicide, and hate. Many people are concerned that this is a first step of Russian authorities to curb the freedom of internet users, especially those that used the internet to criticize Vladimir Putin’s election to a third term in 2012.
“This is an important case because it’s part of the general offensive against https. Roskomnadzor and the FSB [security services] don’t know what to do with it,” said Andrei Soldatov, author of Red Web, a book about the Russian internet.
It seems that https is at the center of the entire dustup over the Wikipedia page, and will be central to the fight over the freedom of the Russian internet. Once an https site is encrypted it is difficult for Roskomnadzor and FBS security services to ban certain parts and instead need to ban the entire page, which is why the entirety of Wikipedia was down in many parts of Russia.
Soldatov further speculates that this is part of a larger strategy to use site wide bans in an effort to force websites not to use https.
“There are two options for https: the first is to have access to the data before encryption, which explains the demand to store servers in Russia. The second is to try to force services to give up on https, which is what is happening with Wikipedia,” Soldatov said.
This does seem to be the case as Russia will see a new law take effect on September 1 that requires internet servers like Facebook and Twitter to store all the data of Russian users in-country. This would allow services like Roskomnadzor to access the data of Russian users.
This isn’t the only internet fight Russia is involved in either. Early this year they partnered with China and some central Asian dictatorships to lobby the U.N. to pass a resolution banning countries, specifically the U.S., from using the internet to subvert ruling regimes.
[The Guardian] [Time]