The Wikipedia Foundation has appealed against a Moscow court decision ordering it to remove information about the Ukraine war from its site.
The court fined Wikipedia five million rubles ($65,000) for refusing to remove information from a series of articles, arguing that they amounted to “unreliable socially significant materials, as well as other prohibited information”, and risked provoking mass public disorder.
“In accordance with the requirement of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia, Roskomnadzor sent a notification to the administration of the Internet resource to immediately remove inaccurate information on the subject of a special military operation of the RF Armed Forces in Ukraine, aimed at misinforming Russian users,” a statement from media and internet regulator Roskomnadzor reads.
The articles concerned are Russian Invasions of Ukraine (2022), Black powder, Battle for Kyiv, War Crimes during the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Shelling of Hospital in Mariupol, Bombing of the Mariupol Theater, and Massacre in Bucha.
“This decision implies that well-sourced, verified knowledge on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with Russian government accounts constitutes disinformation,” says Stephen LaPorte, associate general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation.
The demand to remove content was received on 1 March, and is based on a claim that Wikipedia operates inside Russian territory and therefore falls under Russian jurisdiction. This, says the Wikipedia Foundation, mischaracterizes the global nature of its model, which sees all of its language editions available to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Wikipedia is also arguing that the articles concerned do not represent misinformation, and that their removal constitutes a violation of human rights.
Russia has increasingly been demanding control over internet content in the country, most notably by banning Facebook and Instagram for “extremist” activities.
According to a register maintained by VPN review site Top10VPN, 1,881 websites have been blocked in Russia since February 24 thanks to content relating to the invasion of Ukraine.
These include Twitter, Google News, BBC News, NPR, Bild, AOL, Ukrayinska Pravda, Meduza.io, Interfax-Ukraine, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe sites, Voice of America, Bellingcat, Amnesty International, and Chess.com.
The government says that claims of Russian war crimes are fake, and that its actions in Ukraine do not amount to war, but are instead a “special military operation”. It will make a filing in response to Wikipedia’s appeal in the next few weeks; the case isn’t expected to go Wikipedia’s way.
“The government is targeting information that is vital to people’s lives in a time of crisis,” says LaPorte. “We urge the court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s rights to knowledge access and free expression.”