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Wikipedia appeals Moscow court order to remove Ukraine pages

Amanda Rivkin
June 13, 2022

The court fined the foundation that owns Wikpedia for refusing to remove articles about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, war crimes in Bucha and related topics.

The Wikipedia logo under a microscope
The Wikimedia Foundation has defended Wikipedia's content on Russia's invasion of Ukraine Image: Ali Balikci/AA/picture alliance

The foundation that owns Wikipedia announced Monday that it had filed an appeal against a Moscow court's ruling fining it five million rubles ($88,000, €83,260) for refusing to remove information related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Wikimedia Foundation's appeal argues that people have a right to truthful information about the conflict.

The Moscow court said the fine pertains to what it incorrectly terms "disinformation" in Russian-language articles focused on what Moscow acknowledges as a "special military operation."

Why did the Moscow court fine Wikipedia?

The Wikipedia articles deemed questionable by the court focus on such sensitive topics in Russia as war crimes carried out by Russian forces in Bucha and beyond, as well as the invasion itself, which Russia terms a "special military operation."

Ukraine prepares dozens of war crimes trials

Following a severe crackdown on Russian media, which includes a prohibition on accurately reporting on the war, Wikipedia remains one of the few fact checked sources of information available to the Russian public.

In its decision, the lower court said the information published on Wikipedia "poses a risk of mass public disorder in Russia."

Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications regulator, brought the case against Wikipedia, charging that the user-generated and edited encyclopedia site is a purveyor of banned information.

What is the basis for Wikipedia's appeal?

In a statement, the Wikimedia Foundation, said, "The information at issue is fact-based and verified by volunteers who continuously edit and improve articles on the site; its removal would therefore constitute a violation of people's rights to free expression and access to knowledge." 

Stephen LaPorte, the associate general counsel for the foundation, added, "The government is targeting information that is vital to people's lives in a time of crisis."

The Wikimedia Foundation is headquartered in San Francisco, California. In its appeal, the foundation argues the Russian court has no jurisdiction over the site which is available in more than 300 languages worldwide.

The appeal was filed June 6 but details were released Monday.

Reuters news agency contributed to this report 

Edited by: Wesley Dockery