Russia’s censorship office is threatening to block all of Wikipedia in the country if the website doesn’t delete information about Russian soldier casualties and military violence against civilians.
Wikipedia’s Russia site editors received a memo from the company’s federal censorship arm on Tuesday, claiming that the article Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022) contains false information —the notice says that the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation is informing the website operators that the article in question is in violation of federal law. It specifically cites as false the article’s listing of Russian military casualties, as well as Ukrainian civilians and children—and demands the site operators to delete that information.
As spotted by Bellingcat researcher Aric Toler, Russian Wikipedia editors received the warning from The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, also known as Roskomnadzor, along with a threat that if they don’t comply, the entire site will be blocked:
Motherboard independently confirmed that this is accurate with a Russian Wikipedia editor.
As of writing, the “Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022)” article cites both Russian and Ukrainian government numbers of casualties, which vary wildly. Ukraine is claiming that 352 civilians have been killed and 1,684 wounded, and more than 110 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed; Russia claims that 200 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and two Russian soldiers. Ukraine claims that there have been 5,710 Russian military casualties and 200 captured.
The Wikipedia editor I spoke with said this isn’t their first threat from Roskomnadzor; they’ve already received a few dozen over the years. These are documented on Wikipedia publicly. They said that in response to this threat, editors will probably try adding more sources to the article, but otherwise, likely won’t respond.
On Tuesday, the Wikimedia Foundation published a statement of support for free access to information during this crisis, writing that it is “actively working with affected communities to identify potential threats to information on Wikimedia projects, and supporting volunteer editors and administrators who serve as a first line of defense against manipulation of facts and knowledge.”