Russia threatens Wikipedia with 4 million ruble fine for coverage of war in Ukraine

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Saturday, April 2, 2022

On Thursday, the Russian government's communication agency, Roskomnadzor, threatened to levy a 4 million ruble fine (US$47 thousand) against Wikipedia if it does not remove information about the war in Ukraine from its article 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The logo of Wikipedia.
Image: Nohat, Paul Stansifer, Wikimedia Foundation.

Roskomnadzor referred to the content as "unreliable socially significant materials, as well as other prohibited information" and accused Wikipedia of deliberately misleading the Russian people, but it did not say which specific details it wanted removed.

Guidelines issued by the government of Russia last month prohibit, for example, referring to the conflict as a war. Many independent Russian news agencies and journalists either shut down or left the country.

In an earlier warning, the agency claimed Wikipedia contained "inaccurate information about the special military operation to protect the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics for the de-militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine."

The Wikipedia article refers to these claims as unsupported by evidence. It also provides information on the deaths of both Ukrainian civilians and Russian soldiers.

A spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation told the press the Russian government had asked for changes twice, on March 1 and March 29. The spokesperson went on to say "The Wikimedia Foundation supports everyone's fundamental right to access free, open, and verifiable information; this escalation does not change our commitment."

The Foundation had responded to these earlier requests by saying they "threatened censorship" and removing the information could have "life-altering consequences" to those denied access to it.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, the English Wikipedia page about the war had been viewed 11 million times as of March 8 and had counterparts in 99 other languages.