Venezuela has blocked access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, becoming only the second country after Turkey to do so, an internet watchdog claimed Sunday.
According to NetBlocks, a digital rights group that tracks restrictions to the internet, as of 12 January, Venezuela largest telecommunications provider CANTV has prevented access to Wikipedia in all languages. The internet observatory told Haaretz the ban was discovered by attempting "to access Wikipedia and other services 60,000 times from 150 different points in the country using multiple providers."
Roughly 16 million people have access to the internet in the South American country ravaged by poverty and now facing a political crisis as leader Nicolas Maduro attempts to cling to power following a highly contested re-election last year. Wikipedia receives on average 60 million views from the country every month.
According to NetBlocks, the ban was likely imposed after a Wikipedia article listed newly-appointed National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as “president number 51 of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” ousting Maduro from his presidential status on Wikipedia.
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In May, Maduro declared victory following an election that his political opponents and many foreign nations consider illegitimate, in part because popular opponents were banned from running and the largest anti-government parties boycotted the race.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement this week that it stood behind Guaido, who said on Friday that he was prepared to step into the presidency temporarily to replace Maduro, but would do so only with support of the armed forces.
Alp Toker, the head of NetBlocks, explained to Haaretz that the block followed a string of controversial edits on the Spanish-language article for Guaido as well as other related articles.
Maduro’s regime now joins Turkey’s Recep Tayip Erdogan as the second to ban Wikipedia in its entirety. Turkey, Haaretz reported, blocked Wikipedia in April 2017 over articles relating to Ankara’s involvement with ISIS in Syria.
AP and Reuters contributed background to this report