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Russia Bans the Internet Archive's ‘Wayback Machine’

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Breaking News, Censorship, RuNet Echo
It's so long to the "Wayback Machine" in Russia. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

It's so long to the “Wayback Machine” in Russia. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

The Russian government has blocked [1] the Internet Archive, the San-Francisco-based website that provides the popular Wayback Machine [2], which allows users to view archived webpages. The decision to ban the Internet Archive appears to be the work of Russia's Attorney General, meaning that police determined that the website contains extremist content.

Rublacklist.net says police targeted the Internet Archive because of a saved webpage called “Solitary Jihad in Russia, [3]” a short text that claims to offer information about the “theory and practice of partisan resistance.” At one point, the text states that Islamic sharia law “must be instituted all across the world.”

According to the website Rublacklist.net (a censorship-monitoring project operated by the Russian Pirate Party [4]), the page in question [5]on the Internet Archive was added to Russia's official registry of banned websites on June 23, 2015. Because the Internet Archive uses https, some Russian ISPs will have to block the entire website in order to comply with the blacklisting, since encrypted traffic won't allow them to differentiate between different pages of the same site. According to TJournal, users of mobile Internet provider Yota were unable to access the page, the Wayback Machine, or the Internet Archive on June 25.

Like cache services offered by Google and Yandex, the Wayback Machine saves copies of websites that can later become useful resources, in the event that websites change, go offline, or delete their own content. The Internet Archive doesn't maintain the world's largest collection of archived websites (its 485 billion websites today pale in comparison to the 30 trillion [6] Google had archived as long ago as 2013), but its Wayback Machine is unique for archiving several different versions of a website, saving different copies of the same page every few months or so.

By banning access to the Internet Archive, the government is denying Russian Internet users a powerful tool—one that is particularly useful in an environment where websites often disappear behind a state-operated blacklist, as is increasingly true in Russia today.

*Correction: This article previously stated that the entire domain and IP address for the Internet Archive were added to the banned websites registry. In fact, only the webpage with alleged extremist content was added.