Can a web3 Wikipedia evade Russian censorship? Techies are divided | #socialmedia | #education | #technology | #infosec


While a brutal armed conflict rages on Ukrainian soil, an information war is unfolding online.

Russia is seeking to control the narrative by muffling dissent. Last month, the Kremlin blocked several social media platforms and threatened lengthy jail terms for spreading “false information” about the invasion.

A series of domestic alternatives to American apps are now being promoted, from RuTube to Rossgram. Critics describe the latter as “absolute shit.”

The next service that may require a Putin-approved replacement is Wikipedia.

Regulators last week threatened to fine the site up to 4 million rubles (around $47,000) if it doesn’t remove “prohibited information” about the “special operation.”

Russians now rushing to secure the site’s content before a potential ban. In March, the country had almost twice as many downloads of Wikipedia as any other nation.

These fears have caught the eye of advocates for web3, the nebulous term for a decentralized internet built on blockchains.

Building a web3 Wikipedia

Proponents of Web3 argue that blockchain can eradicate censorship. Among the supporters are Swarm, an Ethereum-based decentralized storage platform, and Kiwix, an offline reader for online content.

The pair want to add a mirror version of Wikipedia to a peer-to-peer network that’s always available — even when internet access is restricted.

Kiwix says Wikipedia’s entire collection of 6 million articles with images can be compressed into just 80Gb, which could then be hosted on Swarm as a read-only snapshot.

Instead of storing the content on centralized servers, the data would be distributed across numerous nodes, which makes it censorship-resistant.

“The idea is that we split the big file into chunks, and those chunks are scattered across the network,” Swarm’s Antonio Gonzalo told TNW. “As a host, you don’t know exactly which files you’re hosting, which can prevent sudden takedowns.”

If the main domain was blocked, anyone running a node and connected to the network could still access and share the information. Users would cover the costs via a built-in incentive system enforced through smart contracts.

Some foundations for the project have already been laid. At a March hackathon, participants created read-only versions of Wikipedia and offline search tools for the site.