Wikipedia page containing drug info to be blocked, could take down whole site in Russia

© Gary Cameron
After previous warnings Russian internet watchdog Roskomnadzor announced on Monday it will order the blockage of a Wikipedia page on preparing and using a cannabis-containing drug, despite fears that this will bar the whole site on Russia’s territory.

Roskomnadzor issued an official warning to Wikipedia last Friday asking the Russian branch of the project to delete the page that detailed the procedure for preparing hashish or ‘charas’, because this substance contains cannabis, which Russian law lists as an illegal drug.

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The warning came after a district court in South Russia’s Astrakhan Region ruled in June that it’s illegal to publish instructions on preparing ‘charas’ in Russia, including on internet sites.

Roskomnadzor asked Wikipedia managers to remove the page saying that otherwise it would order internet service providers in Russia to block it in accordance with the Federal Law on Information. The watchdog also acknowledged that the move could lead to the whole Wikipedia website being taken down in Russia due to the use of the https technology that makes blocking individual pages impossible.

The executive director of Wikimedia Russia, Stanislav Kozlovsky, said in press comments on Friday that his company was aware of the situation and that its staff had assessed the situation and decided not to comply with the authorities’ demands. He claimed that the sources of the information on the banned page were legitimate and taken from open and reputable sources, such as the United Nations’ website, and added that Wikipedia was prepared for the website’s blockage in Russia.

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On Monday Russian news agencies reported that Wikipedia had changed the web address of the article about Charas, but apparently Roskomnadzor did not consider this move sufficient grounds for ending the conflict.

Moving the article to a different web address did not limit the users’ access to the information banned by the court,” the watchdog said in an official statement on Monday. It added that Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service had recognized the article about charas as information banned for distribution.

On Tuesday morning, Roskomnadzor issued a follow-up statement, saying that the court’s decision concerning the charas article on Wikipedia had been carried out and the article no longer violated Russia’s anti-drug laws. The article has been removed from the state register of banned information and the agency has rescinded its order to block Wikipedia in Russia.