Wikimedia condemned by Russia: what does Wikipedia’s parent foundation really risk?

Vincent Mannessier

November 02, 2022 at 3:15 p.m.


Vladimir Poutine


In the name of the fight against false information, Russian justice condemned, on 1er November, the parent company of Wikipedia to pay a heavy fine.

Two articles present in the online encyclopedia, accessible in Russia, are called into question here. They deal with topics related to the war that Moscow’s troops are waging in Ukraine. Through the voice of its manager on Russian territory, the foundation has already announced its intention to challenge the decision and leave the articles in question online.

The illustration of the control of information by the Russian authorities

Before its war against Ukraine, Russia was already not really an example in terms of freedom of the press and the right to information. But since last February and the start of the invasion, the country has fallen further in the world rankings, in which it occupies only 155e place out of 180. In its report, RSF notes that the situation in Russia has in fact deteriorated considerably since that date. This has materialized in particular through the censorship of the few independent media, such as the Novaya Gazettawho had the audacity to criticize the conduct of the conflict.

But the Russian information offensive did not stop there. The campaigns of influence outside the borders by the men of the Kremlin have been further intensified since the start of the invasion, and already, Wikipedia was among their favorite targets. English researchers thus identified, in September, nearly 90 different publishers who had made changes to the article of the online encyclopedia devoted to the conflict to highlight the narrative of the Kremlin. Their accounts have since been deleted. As for the justice of the country, it had already condemned the site twice this year for similar facts.

Wikimedia has no plans to let it go

This court decision is therefore just another example of the still tighter control of the media by the Russian authorities, particularly with regard to sources from abroad. Pursuant to the law on fake news ”, that is to say those which contradict the official Russian account, Google was thus condemned to 360 million euros in fine for not having removed such content. Most Western social networks are also blocked or very limited.

Vladimir Medeïko, the head of the Russian branch of the Wikimedia Foundation, has already criticized this decision. He explained that ” no one will delete the pages targeted by the sanction and announced that the parent company of the free encyclopedia had planned to challenge the decision. Symbolically, this procedure has little chance of being successful given the increasingly obvious partiality of justice in the country.

Sources: RFI, RSF, Numerama

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