On Tuesday, July 10, the Russian Wikipedia community made a decision to blackout their project for 24 hours to protest a piece of legislation before the Russian Duma. The legislation, which has since been passed (although with important amendments) could threaten the mission of the Wikimedia projects in Russia – to spread free knowledge globally. Websites that publish facts or deemed to be inappropriate could be blacklisted and blocked from operating in Russia.
Wikimedia Russia blogged (in Russian and English) about the blackout this week.
The volunteers of the Russian Wikipedia undertook this initiative independently from other language projects and from the Wikimedia Foundation, however many in the Wikimedia movement recognize that this legislation is similar to other bills being proposed or passed around the world that could hinder free speech and produce situations where governments could censor information. Non-censorship and freedom of speech are core values of the Wikimedia movement and the Wikimedia Foundation.
The efforts of the Russian Wikipedia blackout on July 10 appear to have made a difference in the ultimate shape of this legislation. Although our projects are not spaces designed for political advocacy, Wikimedians around the world take the issue of freedom of speech in their nations, and especially on our projects, very seriously. Our projects are built on the core values of neutral point of view, non-censorship, and openness, and we continue to urge lawmakers around the world to better understand the role of the free and open web.