Russia Bans Wikipedia Over Hashish Page
Continuing their crusade against the internet, Russia briefly banned Wikipedia over a page detailing charas, an Indian form of hashish.
It was only recently that Russia hit Reddit with its ban stick, preventing any Russian users from visiting the site - all because of a two-year-old article detailing how to grow magic mushrooms. Now the Russian authorities have taken it all one step further, temporarily blocking the whole of Wikipedia, just because it has an information page on a type of hashish.
It was to the ruling of a court in a small southern Russian town that started all this nonsense, with the judge ordering the wiki page to be taken down. The reasoning being that it holds harmful information (it doesn’t, but we will get to that in a bit). This leads us onto the Roskomnadzor. This is a governmental watchdog responsible for overseeing the media. It basically falls down to these guys to make sure that the gag order is enforced. The problem is though, most Russian ISPs don’t have the technology to block individual pages on a website using https encryption, which Wikipedia does. What is the Roskomnadzor’s answer to this? Ban everything.
As a result, Wikipedia became inaccessible for many Russians as of Monday the 24th of August, however, the ban was quickly rescinded, with access being restored before many users noticed. For those that did, the Wikipedia page appeared showing how the block could be circumvented. According to Roskomnadzor, the ban was lifted due to the information on hashish being redacted. A Wikipedia spokesman has said the page remains the same.
THE SPIRITUAL USES OF HASHISH, A DANGER TO US ALL
So, why did Russian authorities want to ban this certain page? You would think that maybe the page had detailed information on how to produce it, or ways it is smuggled. No. The Charas wiki page mainly focuses on the historical and spiritual use of this one type of hashish. So why a sudden national interest in, what is quite frankly, a rather obscure page on a niche form of hashish?
AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE?
Putin’s government doesn’t like the internet. This is no secret, with his government now blocking anything that is seen as “undesirable”. However, the problem is that the internet is not something you can just gag with the flick of a switch. Some Russian journalists speculate that this move, much like many of Russia’s international moves, was tactical sabre rattling. Https encryption makes it very hard for Russian authorities to control the internet, so by flexing their muscles and showing sites who use it they could face a potential ban, it forces sites, like Wikipedia, to slowly abandon using the encryption technique.
This trend can also be seen with Facebook, who have been ordered to maintain servers of Russian users within the Russia itself, giving the state access to content before it is encrypted.
Whatever the reasoning, it is clear that such a move is ridiculous. Wikipedia is one of the largest websites in the world, and won’t be easily denied. Even if it was, there are thousands of forums out there that all outline how such drugs are made and used. Much like prohibition, trying to censor the internet won’t work!