The Russian-language version of Wikipedia has closed its doors for the day in protest at a bill which it warns could end up censoring the internet.
The site draws a big ‘censored’ black line over its logo, and a warning on the page translates as ‘censorship is dangerous to free knowledge, which should be open to all mankind’.
In a statement the site said: ‘Imagine a world without free knowledge, and ‘amendments to the Russian act] could lead to the creation of extrajudicial censorship of the whole Russian-language Internet’.
The disputed amendments are to an information law which are being promoted by the Russian state as a crackdown on child pornography.
But the site – ru.wikipedia.org – warns that this could ‘prompt the creation of a Russian version of the Great China Firewall’.
Russia already has a law on protecting children ‘from information that causes harm to their health and development’, which is used to promote age certification.
The amendments to the law, passed last week in a first reading, call for the creation of a federal register that would rule on websites carrying banned information, and oblige site owners and providers to close down the offending sites.
The legislation highlights websites carrying child pornography, promoting drug use and giving advice on suicide.
The bill is due for a second reading in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. If passed it will go through several other votes seen as a formality before being signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
In Russia, the Internet plays a crucial role in disseminating opposition views through social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and Live Journal and is also used to coordinate protests.
The member nations of the United Nations will gather this December to create a treaty for the World Conference on International Telecommunications – and Russia has already made it clear which way it wants the internet to develop.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called for a centralised control of the internet.
The U.S. delegation has vowed to block any proposals from Russia and other countries that they believe threaten the internet’s current governing structure or give tacit approval to online censorship.