Last week: “The Russian government has announced it will create a “regional electronic encyclopedia” to serve as a counterweight to Wikipedia.” (Washington Post, Nov. 17)
The Kremlin’s recent whack-a-mole style attempts to stamp down on Wikipedia are familiar, in terms of power and information, but somehow still especially strange. Also strange are the bizarre-o minor edits on Wikipedia pages that have been traced to the Russian Government.
- Adding a sentence to the Wikipedia article about the Vietnam War to emphasize the embarrassment of America’s defeat.
Other examples are even more absurd. After living in Russia for a year from 2012 to 2013, I feel like I experienced a much different Russian internet than the nationwide “CIA project” suggested in recent Kremlin murmurs. While I am sure my personal information was plenty up for grabs back then, as it would be now, the only sense I got of the internet there was that, much like anything else in the country, it was an open, renegade space. Copyright laws were only suggestions, and anything and everything could be found without restriction, and on the equivalent of Facebook (VKontakte), no less. Again, I am sure I was naiive to think that my internet usage went unobserved, and that I was operating in a big, free online world (not that I did anything beyond stream some movies), but the level of supervision that the Russian government seems ready to impose on the internet is surprising to me. Also, this rush for cyber control of citizens feels especially scary given the patchy world of law enforcement that operates over there.