If you live in Russia tonight, it's time to celebrate as if it was not yet 1989.
The Soviet KGB agent President Vladmir Putin is about to unveil a wall. Some call it the most beautiful wall the world has ever seen. It will be huge. It will cover every square inch of the Russian border and unlike the ridiculous fence we build here in the US, it will actually be effective: it keeps ideas away.
Reuters reported today that Putin will execute a plan to replace Wikipedia with a state online encyclopedia. According to the report, the government will spend about $ 30 million on the new portal and plans to set up a department in the state to investigate and verify the content.
Putin does not seem to be a big fan of Wikipedia and sees the site as misleading. Noteworthy, however, is the date of his announcement to "replace" Wikipedia.
Business Insider's Sahar Esafandiari reported last month:
The proposal was made only one week after the entry into force of a new "sovereign Internet" law in Russia. The law allows the Russian government to separate the Internet from the World Wide Web.
Kremlin officials argue that the new system will help protect the Russian Internet from cyber attacks. However, the law has been criticized as Russian Internet service providers have to install hardware that allows authorities to locate and block traffic, and Putin may be able to censor and close the Internet.
It is unclear how exactly the Russian president intends to "replace" Wikipedia. In geographic areas where the Internet is relatively uncensored, such as California, it is difficult to understand how the government could replace a website ̵
Putin sells an Internet that is insensitive to external attacks. His point is that if all Russian Internet traffic is routed through servers on Russian soil, all Russians can live safely and happily knowing they are free from foreign spies and evil eavesdroppers.
It's easy to buy your pitch. For who knows better than Vladimir Putin what the threat of foreign interference can mean for an unstable government?
But the truth is that his "wall" only serves to isolate the Russian people from the world. Putin will have an "off" switch if a poll does not go in his direction or a foreign press releases some dirt he does not like. He will have the power to disrupt the communication of his people and to keep the open-source exchange of ideas at a distance.
Sure, data finds a way. Just as Levi's blue jeans and Elvis Presley's plates were residing in the cellars and attics of rebellious Russians in the 1950s and 1960s, people in Russia will find a way to bypass the censors and access the World Wide Web. But not all of them. Many will accept the change.
There will always be those willing to act their actual freedom for their theoretical safety, and these people are not interested in communicating with outsiders.
The modern trend of creating "state wide webs" with state-controlled access to the unfiltered Internet is worrying, and there is no end in sight.