Wikimedia Fighting Russian Fines Over Its Content About Invasion Of Ukraine

from the citation-needed dept

It’s no secret that the Russian government has been working overtime to try to block out accurate information about its invasion of Ukraine from reaching the citizenry. That’s part of why we found it so frustrating that some supporters of Ukraine sought to make it even more difficult for Russian’s to reach the wider internet.

Either way, one of Russia’s targets, not surprisingly, has been Wikipedia. Unlike various big social media companies, where Russia can try to imprison local employees or somehow harm their bottom line, it’s not as easy for Russia to intimidate Wikipedia — whose content is all created by volunteers anyway. In early March, the same time the Russian government made demands on social media, it also demanded that Wikipedia delete some content as well. The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, refused to comply.

In response, a Russian court has fined Wikimedia 5 million rubles (approximately $65,000). Wikimedia is now appealing that ruling in a Russian court.

On 6 June 2022, the Wikimedia Foundation filed an appeal to challenge a Moscow Court’s decision that the Foundation committed an administrative offense by failing to remove “prohibited” information on Wikipedia, largely related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In its appeal, the Wikimedia Foundation argues that information on Wikipedia should be protected by freedom of expression and does not constitute disinformation, as found by the Court. The information at issue is fact-based and verified by volunteers who continuously edit and improve articles on the site; its removal would therefore constitute a violation of people’s rights to free expression and access to knowledge.

It’s easy to be cynical here and to suggest this is a waste of time, because there’s no way a Russian court will rule against the censorial demands of Putin’s government. But, to some extent here I find it shows the kind of character that the Wikimedia Foundation has — to default to assuming good faith and exhausting all officials avenues before going further.

According to the lower Court’s decision, the information on Wikipedia is considered disinformation, which poses risk of mass public disorder in Russia. Further, the Court declared that the Wikimedia Foundation is operating inside Russian territory, and would therefore be required to comply with Russian law. 

“This decision implies that well-sourced, verified knowledge on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with Russian government accounts constitutes disinformation,” said Stephen LaPorte, Associate General Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation. “The government is targeting information that is vital to people’s lives in a time of crisis. We urge the court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s rights to knowledge access and free expression.”  

In the end, it is still unlikely that the appeal will work, so the next question is how will Wikipedia handle this issue going forward. It does seem like the most likely scenario is that Wikipedia ends up being blocked in Russia, which would be unfortunately. Access to knowledge is important, and Wikipedia remains an excellent tool for knowledge sharing.

Russian-language Wikipedia is a crucial second draft of history, written by and for Russian speakers around the world who volunteer their time to make reliable, fact-checked information available to all. Blocking access to Wikipedia in Russia would deny more than 145 million people access to this vital information resource. Further, the articles flagged for removal uphold Wikipedia’s standards of neutrality, verifiability, and reliable secondary sources to ensure articles are based in fact. They are well-sourced, including citations to a variety of established news sources. The articles continue to be improved by Wikipedia volunteer editors from all over the world with more sources and up-to-date information.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: wikimedia foundation

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Wikimedia Fighting Russian Fines Over Its Content About Invasion Of Ukraine”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:


Wikipedia has never, and can never be truly “neutral”, but there are plenty ways in which its structure makes it self-correcting for the biases introduced into it by contributors. For example, compare different language versions of articles, and look at where the english-language ones leave out a lot of very important information on certain colonial atrocities which, for example, the spanish version of those articles include.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

If Wikimedia/wikipedia is hosting information that contradicts the Official Narrative of the Russian government about the invasion of Ukraine then their legal case probably has as much chance as a snowball in the testing range of hell’s flamethrower factory, but even so I’d say there’s value in going through the motions as it leaves them looking better and the government looking all the more dictatorial, something which is just going to be magnified if/when the government blocks them for refusing to play along with it’s propaganda.

On a broader range this should serve as a chilling example of why it’s so problematic when governments start talking about laws to clamp down on ‘fake news’ and the like, because even if you trust the current batch in office it’s all but a given that someone you don’t agree with will take their place down the line and when the government has the power to punish anything that doesn’t agree with them things can get really ugly real fast.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Until and unless the russian government is able to ensure complete control over the spread of information there’s always going to be alternatives sources to what they are telling people, and if nothing else suddenly having wikipedia go dark for everyone in the country is likely to have a big enough impact that those sources will be tapped and the Official Narrative taken with a block of salt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3

That’s a hell of a “gotcha” moment if I ever saw one.

The irony being: celebrities will always have more scrutiny simply because of their status and pull among the plebs like us.

Easier to monitor celebs and the like than the masses, and even then authoritarian governments know exactly how to manipulate us. Monitoring and conditioning celebs is one effective way, as your gotcha moment has shown.

There’s also a few glaring falsehoods in that article, though, the truth is a lot more sinister…

Let’s just say that China’s VPN laws are vague and selectively enforced for information control reasons and leave it at that.

Phillip Cross says:

Re: absurd

That comment is pure CFR boilerplate.

Let’s not forget, Russia had a few bio-weapons labs tucked under it’s belly by NATO–a “defensive” organization mind you, and some maniacs with access to Chernobyl nuclear waste.

It’s like that old thingy where the kids light a bag of shit on fire and ring your doorbell–the western psychopathocracy knew exactly what they were provoking.

Anonymous Coward says:

How do you call attention to something that you don’t want noticed? Make a fuss over it.

This has been the principal behind the Streisand effect for a long time. It is complicated by the fact that Russian news is refusing to accept facts when it goes contrary to what they wish the narrative to go.

Somethings you can’t hide. Such as the disappearing of a source that many would wish to read. That part you can’t hide. So it will be that some with internet access will understand what they aren’t reading is because something isn’t kosher. Many will know of another site being blocked because it no longer is accessible. They’ll also recognize that someone is filtering reliable sources.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

My thought is this:

Currently, one of the still-free sources of information in Russia is court documents. Which means if Wikimedia is being clear and honest and spelling out what’s happening in the court documents, and the documents are closed with a “we disagree. Pay up or move out,” then anyone reading those documents will see exactly what happened.

Until the documents are sealed for national security. But then having a bunch of cases against information providers sealed for national security is, in itself, a statement.

Essentially, Russia is forced to go full totalitarian and stop pretending to be a democracy if they keep this up. And the people will notice full totalitarianism, even if they agree with it at first.

Phillip Cross, Wikipedia "editor" says:

re: calling good faaith in anything Wzikipedia is a travesty

The Phillip Cross affair–where an “editor” who contributed seven days a week, 24 hours per day, and even during the hoolidays seems relevant towards debunking Wikipedia’s legitimacy. And its just one of many.

Sure, access to knowledge is good–but calling out western shills (Big Pharma, MIC, PIC, DVIC, etc.) is important too. Wikipedia refuses to balance that out in the wider narratives that western spookocracy/kakistocracy is always foisting upon the unwitting public.

It’s merely an establishment tool at this point, with all the usual suspects editing it, and waging editing wars over trivial definitions. Like everything good, it has been completely co-opted, and has seen it’s best days pass by. Stop pitching it as a valid resource.

And not trolling, but “the most likely scenario is that Wikipedia ends up being blocked in Russia, which would be unfortunately” note the small typo there, as “unfortunate” is the proper usage.

Wikispooks has also debunked the “grassroots” editing too, stating “Wikipedia is not controlled by a grassroots organisation of volunteers. The number of individuals editing it has been in decline for years[1] and nowadays it receives multi-million dollar donations from companies and grant giving foundations such as from the Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network and Google, some of which have been linked to seats on the board of the Wikimedia foundation[3]. The business of paid edits is harder to document, but many professional wikipedia editors choose to voluntary report conflicts of interest.[4].”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...