Russia’s censorship bureau has threatened to block all Wikipedia sites in the country if the site does not remove information about Russian soldiers’ casualties and military violence against civilians.
Wikipedia editors in Russia received a note from Roskomnadzor claiming that the article on the Russian invasion of Ukraine contained false information. Along with a threat that if they don’t comply, the entire site will be blocked.
The notice says that the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation informs the site’s operators that the material in question violates federal law.
The notice notes that the article’s list of Russian military casualties, as well as Ukrainian civilians and children, is false. The site operators are required to delete this information.
In response, the Wikimedia Foundation released a statement in support of Russian Wikipedia volunteers following the request from the country’s internet regulators.
Roskomnadzor threatened to block Wikipedia because of the Russian-language page covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It claimed that this page contained false messages about war casualties and the effects of economic sanctions, among other things.
On March 1, 2022, the foundation said, the Wikimedia Foundation received a request from the Russian government to remove content related to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, posted by volunteer contributing volunteers to Russian Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is an important source of reliable and factual information on this crisis,” she added. We will not back down in the face of efforts to censor and intimidate members of our movement. We stand by our mission to provide free knowledge to the world.
Roskomnadzor objects to the information about numerous casualties among the military of the Russian Federation. As well as the civilian population of Ukraine, including the number of children.
It also objects to the need to withdraw funds from accounts in banks of the Russian Federation in connection with the sanctions imposed by foreign countries.
Wikimedia Russia called the allegations essentially impossible to evaluate and urged the government not to block access to the article – which would effectively require blocking access to all of Wikipedia.
Wikimedia has supported free access to information during this crisis. She wrote that she is actively working with affected communities to identify potential threats to information in Wikimedia projects.
It also supports volunteer editors and administrators who serve as the first line of defense against the tampering of facts and knowledge.
She noted that the page is constantly changing thanks to the work of its many editors. She wrote: “These people have very different views of what is happening, and are careful to ensure that no wrong information or misleading wording is entered into the article.”
Russia threatens to ban Wikipedia
Russian authorities have sent a number of complaints about Wikipedia pages in the past. The government banned the site in 2015 over an article related to cannabis. But the ban did not last long.
However, the current threat is part of a larger online campaign around the invasion – which has seen Russia block Facebook and Twitter.
The request for removal threatened censorship, the Wikimedia statement warned. Depriving people of access to reliable information, in a time of crisis, can have life-changing consequences.