The Wikimedia Foundation is challenging a Russian court ruling that it violated disinformation laws in articles about the invasion of Ukraine. The organization filed its appeal last week against a decision by a Moscow district court that ordered the site to remove banned information about the war in Ukraine , arguing that the articles contained well-sourced and substantiated knowledge.
The Wikimedia Foundation – which owns Wikipedia – said that while its website operates within Russia, the country has no jurisdiction over Wikipedia, which it described as a global resource available in 300 languages. The organization added that it had not yet complied with any of Russia’s demands to remove the material in question.
In April, source from Russian court fined Wikimedia 5 million rubles ($88,000) for refusing to remove what it called socially significant incorrect information from Russian-language Wikipedia pages.
Russian prosecutors have described the site as a tool for non-stop media attacks on Russia and unfair anti-Russian sentiment.
Wikimedia said the articles contested by the court contained fact-based knowledge. The articles include the Russian invasions of Ukraine, war crimes during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the bombing of a hospital in Mariupol, and the massacre at Posha.
The blocking of access to Wikipedia in Russia deprives more than 145 million people of access to this vital source of information, Wikimedia added.
Wikimedia to appeal Russian fine over Ukraine war articles
The decision followed an order from Russia’s Roskomnadzor Agency for Technology and Communications. In addition, President Vladimir Putin signed new disinformation laws in March.
These laws allow authorities to punish anyone who shares what they consider false information about the war with up to 15 years in prison or fines of up to 5 million rubles.
Google was also fined in April. The Russian subsidiary declared bankruptcy after freezing its bank account for non-payment.
“The court’s decision shows a discrepancy between Wikipedia’s well-sourced and verified knowledge and the Russian government’s definition of misinformation ,” Stephen Laporte, associate general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement . Well-sourced and documented knowledge via Wikipedia that does not correspond to the Russian government’s calculations constitutes misinformation.
He added: The government targets information that is vital to people’s lives in times of crisis. We urge the Court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s rights to access to knowledge and freedom of expression.
The Wikimedia Foundation filed the appeal on June 6, and the Russian government will have an opportunity to respond in the coming weeks.
Roskomnadzor has periodically asked Wikipedia to remove content in the past. But her war on Wikipedia — and other sites — intensified after the invasion. Wikipedia volunteers have also faced challenges outside Russia, including the arrest of an editor in Belarus in March.