Tech

Russians urgently download Wikipedia before it is blocked

Faced with the imminent threat of censorship of Wikipedia by the Kremlin, many Russian citizens are downloading the entire Russian-translated content of the famous free online encyclopedia en masse. Currently, these are the most downloaded files in the country.

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Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Russian government has strengthened its grip on the media and information in the country. A law recently passed by the Kremlin prohibits Russian journalists from speaking differently from the authorities, on pain of ending up in prison for fifteen years. This draconian and deeply liberticidal measure prompted many international media such as CNN or the BBC to suspend their activities in Russia.

Social networks are also in Vladimir Putin’s sights. Facebook and Instagram were banned from the country on Tuesday March 22, 2022, the two entities being considered “extremist and terrorist organizations” by the Russian authorities. For its part, TikTok is still accessible, but in a private version of 95% of its content. Furthermore, users can no longer post videos.

Faced with this growing influence of the Russian authorities on the country’s information and entertainment channels, many Russians have decided to mass download Wikipedia. In any case, this is what our colleagues on the site report. Slate. Alexander, a 32-year-old Russian, explains that he downloaded a copy of all the Russian-translated content onto a USB stick. This user is not a regular contributor or Wikipedia enthusiast, but wants to make sure they always have access to a reliable, neutral and above all independent source of information from the Kremlin.

Also read: Russia orders Google to ban VPNs from search results

Russians download Wikipedia en masse before censorship

He is not the only one to have done so. Demand for Wikipedia torrents has skyrocketed in Russia. Thereby, a 29 GB file which includes all Russian-translated content from Wikipedia has been downloaded 105,889 times during the first two weeks of March 2022, i.e. an increase of 4000% compared to the first half of January. According to Stéphane Coillet-Matillon, CEO of Kiwix, a software that allows you to consult documents from the Web while being offline, Russian Wikipedia file downloads account for 42% of traffic on Kiwix serverscompared to only 2% in 2021.

And again, the boss believes that these figures do not really reflect reality, since many Russians use VPNs or Tor to hide their IP address, which prevents Kiwix from obtaining precise statistics on the number of Wikipedia downloads in Russia. . We have also mentioned in our columns the explosion in demand for VPNs in the country after the start of the invasion in Ukraine.

We experienced something similar in 2017, when Turkey blocked Wikipedia, but this is another dimension.” assures the manager. For the moment, Russia did not order the blocking of Wikipediabut the telecoms regulator, Roskomnadzor, has already announced that it could do so if articles in Russian dedicated to the invasion of Ukraine do not correspond to the Kremlin’s discourse.

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