Russia Threatens to Fine Wikipedia For ‘False Information’ | #socialmedia


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(Photo: Subhashish Panigrahi/Wikimedia Commons)
Russia’s censorship authority—the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, or Roskomnadzor for short—has issued a warning to Wikipedia threatening to fine the nonprofit for publishing “false information.” 

The agency demanded Tuesday that Wikipedia “limit the dissemination of unreliable socially significant information.” It vaguely described this as “frankly false” information conveying an “anti-Russian” interpretation of Russia’s “special military operation in Ukraine.” The latter is the Russian government’s favorite and only way of referring to the war it initiated, with Russian journalists forbidden from referring to it any other way. 

The threat constitutes a new attempt to maintain control of the information reaching Russian citizens as its military’s attack on Ukraine heads into its seventh week. Putin’s reign has long depended on a fragile bubble of disinformation, which his own country’s war on Ukraine has threatened to burst. Putin signed legislation back in early March banning what the government considers “fake news,” demanding that ten major Russian news outlets delete any media using the terms “war” or “invasion” to describe recent events. Those found violating the new law could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Many journalists fled the country in response, while others closed up shop entirely. 

(Photo: Dimitry B/Unsplash)

The Russian government has also blocked its citizens from freely using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, calling the social networks “extremist organizations” for allowing users to speak of Putin in violent contexts. Though it’s possible the government didn’t care for such depictions of its leader, it’s also probable that it didn’t like how Russian citizens were using these networks to voice their disapproval of the war and organize protests—the latter of which it has arrested thousands of people for. 

Roskomnadzor says it will fine Wikipedia up to 4 million rubles (a little over $50,000) if it does not delete the “illegal” content described in the warning. The agency, which was created to monitor, control, and censor Russian mass media, previously warned Wikipedia to stop “misinforming Russian users.” Wikipedia has not satisfied that demand, which isn’t surprising given its March 3 statement reaffirming its defense of free knowledge in the face of Russian threats. 

“As ever, Wikipedia is an important source of reliable, factual information in this crisis. In recognition of this important role, we will not back down in the face of efforts to censor and intimidate members of our movement,” the statement reads. “We stand by our mission to deliver free knowledge to the world.”

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