Wikipedia owner fined for failing to remove suspected extremist content

Wikipedia owner fined for failing to remove suspected extremist content

Wikipedia owner fined for failing to remove suspected extremist content

The Wikimedia Foundation, owner of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, was fined by a Russian court on Thursday for failing to remove content deemed extremist as Moscow continues its crackdown on independent news sources.

Wikipedia, which says it offers “the second draft of the story”, is one of the few sources of verified information in Russian since the crackdown intensified after Moscow sent its armed forces to Ukraine in February 2022.

The Tagansky District Court said it fined Wikimedia RUB 800,000 (almost Rs. 8 lakh). Russian news agencies present in the courtroom said Wikimedia had been accused of failing to remove material related to a song by alternative rock band Psychea, or Psyshit, which has been officially labeled “extremist”.

Russia has fined Wikimedia about 9 million rubles (almost 90 lakh rupees) over the past year, the agencies said.

Wikimedia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The foundation’s Russian chapter has previously said it believes other fines could be waived, but the number of lawsuits against it could increase, given the number of Wikipedia articles on the dispute.

Russia has been trying for years to launch a local online encyclopedia, with no tangible results so far.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that a Russian analogue was “absolutely necessary”.

“It would contain really verified and accurate information, objective information,” he said, “because we know that Wikipedia contains many distortions, very many untruths, very many historical, factual and other errors.”

Russian domestic tech companies, run by entities controlled or associated with state-owned gas giant Gazprom, have detected opportunities in Russia’s growing digital isolation as foreign internet companies are blocked or leave Russia.

But while Moscow has restricted access to Twitter and flagship Meta Platforms Facebook and Instagram, Wikipedia remains freely available.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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