Russia to Fine Wikipedia If It Doesn’t Remove ‘False Information’ on Ukraine Invasion

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
April 5, 2022Europe
Russia to Fine Wikipedia If It Doesn’t Remove ‘False Information’ on Ukraine Invasion
A mobile device shows Wikipedia's front page displaying a darkened logo in London, England, on Jan. 18, 2012. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Russia’s media regulator on Tuesday threatened to fine Wikipedia nearly $50,000 if the online encyclopedia doesn’t delete “material with inaccurate information” about its attack on Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor, the communications regulator, has accused Wikipedia of hosting “false information” on what Russia calls its “special operation” in Ukraine and on the actions of Russia’s military too.

“Recently, materials have been posted on Wikipedia that disseminates unreliable information on the subject of a special military operation in Ukraine,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement posted on Telegram. “Wikipedia should remove materials with unreliable information of public interest.”

“The authors of articles posted on Wikipedia deliberately misinform Internet resource users with frankly false information,” it said. “In the articles published, an exclusively anti-Russian interpretation of events is promoted.”

Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, warned last July that the online encyclopedia is “more one-sided than ever” and “with few exceptions, only globalist, progressive mainstream sources—and sources friendly to globalist progressivism—are permitted.”

According to Russian law, Roskomnadzor can fine administrators of an Internet resource by up to 4 million roubles ($48,120.30) if it fails to remove materials deemed illegal by Moscow, the regulator said.

A Wikipedia spokesperson told NPR that it had received several demands in March to remove information from the Russian-language version of the online encyclopedia about the Russia–Ukraine conflict.

“The Wikimedia Foundation supports everyone’s fundamental right to access free, open, and verifiable information; this escalation does not change our commitment,” the spokesperson said.

In a March 1 statement, the Wikimedia Foundation also confirmed it had received demands from the Russian government to delete content in relation to the war in Ukraine, noting Russia’s demand “threatened censorship.”

“The information available on Wikipedia is sourced and shared by volunteers who invest time and effort to ensure that the content is fact-based and reliable,” the foundation wrote.

Media outlets in Russia are prohibited to describe the situation in Ukraine as an “assault, invasion, or declaration of war”—instead the government prefers to use the euphemism; “a special military operation.”

Recently, Russian regulators have frequently threatened to ban or fine tech services, including last month, when a Russian court banned Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, over alleged “extremist activities,” rendering its operations inside Russia illegal.

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