Wikipedia, the massive volunteer-run encyclopedia, is being threatened by the Russian government with large fines if they don’t censor information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On March 1st, Wikipedia’s Russia site editors were sent a memo from Roskomnadzor, the federal censorship agency, claiming that several pages contain false information in violation of federal law. The memo specifically mentioned the Russian language article “Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022),” saying it intentionally lists false casualty numbers on both sides – Russian military losses as well as Ukrainian civilians and children. It threatens to block Wikipedia entirely unless the offending information is deleted.
In response, the Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organization behind Wikipedia, released a statement on March 3rd.
“As ever, Wikipedia is an important source of reliable, factual information in this crisis,” read the statement. “In recognition of this important role, we will not back down in the face of efforts to censor and intimidate members of our movement. We stand by our mission to deliver free knowledge to the world.”
While the article is still up and continues to be updated with casualty data in defiance of the Roskomnadzor’s instruction, Wikipedia has not yet been blocked in Russia. Instead, the media regulator contacted Wikipedia’s Russian editors again with threats to fine the foundation up to 4 million rubles (about $49,000), if it doesn’t edit its articles to align with the Kremlin-approved version of events and stop “misinforming” Russians about the invasion. Including calling it an invasion.
Earlier in March, laws were passed in Russia making it a criminal act to refer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “war” or an “invasion,” or to say or post anything negative about the Russian government or military.
A similar threat was also sent to Google last week, alleging fines of up to 8 million rubles if the major media giant didn’t remove YouTube videos at Roskomnadzor’s request. YouTube is the last large American social media platform still permitted in Russia. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have all been blocked.
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