Russians prepare to ban Wikipedia with offline encyclopedia downloads
Internet freedom in Russia has been under siege in recent years, and with the invasion of Ukraine, the country’s authorities have blocked many online sites and services in the West for refusing censorship. Recently, Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, was declared by a Russian court to be “extremist”, and services such as Wikipedia and YouTube are also at risk of being banned. While YouTube is huge and cannot be easily “copied”, Wikipedia is becoming an increasingly popular download in Russia.
Many think Wikipedia’s blockage is imminent
The American publication Slate writes that downloads of the Russian version of Wikipedia, a download that occupies only 29 GB, have rapidly gained popularity due to the current situation. More than 105,000 people have already downloaded the archive with all articles in Russian, which includes 1.8 million articles. This is a 4,000% increase from January, showing that there is great interest in accessing this information.
Kiwix, a company that distributes downloads for the online encyclopedia, says 42% of all its current traffic now comes from Russia, while in 2021 only 2% of traffic came from that country. Wikipedia says it happened again in 2017, when Turkey banned access to the site.
Wikipedia is still available in Russia at present, but it is unknown at present. Roskomnadzor has already warned Wikimedia that it will block access to the site on Russian territory if it does not delete or modify articles in which the invasion of Ukraine is mentioned. Indeed, in 2015, Wikipedia was temporarily blocked in Russia, censoring access to certain articles such as “smoking cannabis”. Russian authorities also edit Wikipedia articles, but there is a bot that tracks these changes, and users can undo them with real information.
Those who want to download the English version of Wikipedia will have to download 87 GB, if they want photos, or 47 GB without. Unlike the Russian version, the English version has 6.4 million articles.