Putin insists on Russia’s making ‘reliable’ twin of Wikipedia

On November 5, Vladimir Putin called for creating a Russian version of an online encyclopedia that would be ‘more reliable’ than the world-known Wikipedia.

“As far as Wikipedia is concerned, we’d better replace it with the new Great Russian Encyclopedia in electronic form,” Putin said during a meeting of the Committee on the Future of the Russian Language.

According to him, it is expected to be a source of solid information. Its latest edition released in 2007-2014 is only available in paper form. However, the work on its moving to the Internet has been underway for almost five months.

In the next three years, the Russian government intends to dole out almost 1.7 bn rubles (around $26.7 mln) to finance the project. The would-be online encyclopedia will be fundamentally different from Wikipedia: for example, Internet users will not be able to edit articles.

Inspired by Great Soviet Encyclopaedia: Russia to create alternative to Wikipedia

Currently, the Russian-language Wikipedia has about 1.5 mln articles, it is widely used. In 2015, the authorities briefly blocked access to it after a post about drugs had been published there, which, according to a district court in Astrakhan region, violated the Russian law.

The Russian leader’s appeal was a reaction to a university rector’s recently lambasting Wikipedia; the professor expressed outrage at even courts’ using it to justify their sentences, RIA Novosti reports. Previously, Wikipedia was criticized by Deputy Communications Minister Alexei Volin. He called it a collection of partly unreliable information and called on students to avoid resorting to it.

In April 2019, the deputies of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament adopted in the third and final reading amendments to the laws ‘On Telecommunication’ and ‘On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection’, which are commonly known as ‘the law on the autonomy (isolation) of the Russian segment of the Internet’.

The amendments provided for measures to ensure the functioning of the Runet in the conditions of disconnecting from global servers. The draft bill was presented to the State Duma at the end of 2018. In their explanation, its authors said that they had taken cognizance of ‘aggressive nature’ of the US national cyber security concept. The project offered an opportunity to minimize sending abroad the data which Russian users exchange among themselves, the authors promised. Many Russians fear that the initiative might contribute to creating a kind of ‘iron curtain’ on the web.

The ‘isolation’ law came into force on November 1, 2019; while its certain provisions (those on cryptographic protection of information and on the national domain name system) will become effective on January 1, 2021.

A number of rallies in defense of free Internet were held in several Russian cities.

Hands off the Internet! Moscow protesting against ‘autonomy of Runet’ (photos)