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Russia Cracks Down on Reddit and Wikipedia for Containing Information About Cannabis

August 27, 2015

Russia is not exactly known for its cannabis acceptance. Although it's technically not illegal to possess up to six grams of cannabis in Russia (rather, it's considered an administrative violation of the law), make no mistakes – the country is not a cannabis-friendly place.

This sentiment could not have been highlighted more prominently than last week when Roscomnadzor, a Russian task force policing the Russian media and internet, first banned all of Reddit in an attempt to censor two specific subreddits, r/trees and r/rshrooms, which refer to cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms, respectively.

The Federal Drug Control Service in Russia was alerted by one particular thread, “Minimal and Reliable Methods for Growing Psilocybe,” related to the cultivation of mushrooms (which has since been removed). From the FDCS' perspective, the only way to effectively ban a single thread was to block the entire website, and they did exactly that. After an international uproar, however, Reddit and the Russian government came to an agreement where the offending thread was blocked while the rest of the website was reinstated.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Ms. Britney Spears, oops, they did it again. Russian watchdog Roscomnadzor took it upon themselves to ban the entirety of Wikipedia over an entry about cannabis. Because Wikipedia runs on an HTTPS server, which encrypts traffic between sites and users, once again, Russia had to ban the entire website rather than just the offending article, which contained an explanation of how to make charas, a type of handmade hashish common to India.

Luckily the ban only lasted a few hours, as uproar from international communities reached a fever pitch. Wikipedia refused to remove the article, choosing to edit the content so that it configured with Roscomnadzor’s guidelines for appropriate content.

The Russian government restricts internet freedom and censors all references to drugs, maintaining a list of “banned” websites in a self-described effort to protect Russia’s children and their access to the internet. The country's Federal Communications Agency has been criticized before for alleged attempts to stifle online dissent and debate about such topics.

We're all for protecting the children, but what about educating them instead of censoring everything in a misguided effort to keep them sheltered from things they should understand so they can make informed decisions later in life?