Russia media regulator targets Wikimedia Foundation over Ukraine invasion content
Wikimedia Commons / CC
Russia media regulator targets Wikimedia Foundation over Ukraine invasion content

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) said Wednesday that it will require search engines to add a disclaimer to all Wikimedia Foundation search results, including Wikipedia, to warn internet users about its violation of Russian law, specifically concerning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

RKN said in a statement that the measures are being imposed due to Wikimedia’s refusal to remove information about the invasion that Russia deems illegal. However, Wikimedia has argued that Russia’s order to remove the content is a violation of the right to freely access and share knowledge and that Russia lacks jurisdiction over Wikimedia, being a global organization.

Anton Gorelkin, Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, suggested that Russian search engines impose more restrictive measures than the ones imposed by RKN, saying, “I think Russian search engines should also consider their own measures in relation to resources that receive the RKN marking. For example, downgrading them in search results in favor of sites that have not been seen in illegal activities.”

In March, a Moscow court fined the Wikimedia Foundation 5 million rubles (approximately USD 91,000) for its refusal to remove the content. Wikimedia appealed the decision in June, but no verdict has been announced in the case. 

In a statement following the appeal, Wikimedia’s Associate General Counsel Stephen LaPorte said, “This decision implies that well-sourced, verified knowledge on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with Russian government accounts constitutes disinformation. The government is targeting information that is vital to people’s lives in a time of crisis.”

Wednesday’s announcement is part of a series of actions taken against western tech companies by RKN following Russia’s adoption of a punitive “fake news” law in March. On Monday, a Russian court imposed a fresh fine, of 21 billion rubles (approximately USD 381.6 million), on Google for “repeatedly not deleting prohibited information.” Russian users of Google will see a disclaimer similar to that for Wikimedia. In June, a Russian court upheld the country’s ban on Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, after RKN intervened in support of the ban.