After Russia threatened to stop Wikipedia, Wikimedia said it “will not back down.”
After internet officials demanded suppression, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a statement supporting Russian Wikipedia volunteers. On Tuesday, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s information and communications regulator, threatened to block Wikipedia’s Russian-language page regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, claiming it carried “false messages” about combat casualties and the effects of economic sanctions, among other things.
“On March 1st, 2022, the Wikimedia Foundation received a Russian government demand to erase content connected to Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine that had been posted by volunteer contributors to Russian Wikipedia,” according to a statement given to The Verge via email. “Wikipedia, as always, is a valuable source of reliable, factual information in this crisis.” We will not back down in the face of attempts to suppress and threaten members of our movement because of this critical role. We remain committed to our aim of providing free knowledge to the entire world.”
Wikimedia must rectify user updates from a February 27th version of the article, according to the Roskomnadzor demand, which was posted in Russian Wikipedia’s Telegram channel. It criticizes “information about numerous casualties among Russian Federation military personnel, as well as the civilian population of Ukraine, including a large number of children,” as well as “the need to withdraw funds from Russian Federation bank accounts in connection with sanctions imposed by foreign states,” as translated by Wikimedia Russia. (While the war’s victims are difficult to measure, the UN has documented hundreds of civilian deaths in Ukraine since the conflict began last week, including at least 13 children, and admitted that its figures are likely understated.)
The assertions were branded “fundamentally impossible” to analyze by Wikimedia Russia, which urged the government not to prohibit access to the article, which would effectively block access to all of Wikipedia. It further stated that the page is continually evolving as a result of the efforts of its many editors. “All of these people have quite varied perspectives on what’s going on,” the group said, “and they’re all very careful to ensure that no one inserts fake facts or deceptive wording into the piece.”
Russian officials have already received a lot of complaints against Wikipedia pages, according to Input. In 2015, the government stopped the site completely due to a cannabis-related article, but the ban was only temporary. The present threat, though, is part of a bigger online crackdown around the invasion, which has seen Russia restrict Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to control the war narrative. “Censorship was endangered by Tuesday’s removal request. In a time of crisis, denying people access to reliable information can have life-altering repercussions,” the Wikimedia statement said.