Wikimedia Foundation, the owner of Wikipedia, has filed an appeal against a Russian court order that demanded the site remove information related to the invasion of Ukraine, stating that the removal would be a “violation of people’s rights to free expression and access to knowledge.”
The nonprofit organization filed an appeal last week to challenge a Moscow court calling for the removal of several Wikipedia articles, mostly related to the invasion, fining them 5 million rubles, or about $65,000.
The foundation challenged the appeal, saying that the information should be protected by freedom of expression.
“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,” the organization said in a press release.
The lower court’s decision states that the articles on the site are disinformation, “which poses risk of mass public disorder in Russia.”
“This decision implies that well-sourced, verified knowledge on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with Russian government accounts constitutes disinformation,” said Stephen LaPorte, associate general Counsel, said in the statement. “The government is targeting information that is vital to people’s lives in a time of crisis. We urge the court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s rights to knowledge access and free expression.”
The court also found that the foundation operates inside Russian territory, which would require it to comply. However, Wikimedia asserts that the country does not have jurisdiction over the organization.
The foundation also argues that the requests for the removal of information “constitutes a violation of human rights.”
“Russian-language Wikipedia is a crucial second draft of history, written by and for Russian speakers around the world who volunteer their time to make reliable, fact-checked information available to all,” the organization said. “Blocking access to Wikipedia in Russia would deny more than 145 million people access to this vital information resource.”
“The Wikimedia Foundation remains committed to defending the right of everyone to freely access and share knowledge,” it added.
The Russian government will have the opportunity to respond to the appeal in the coming weeks.
Wikimedia has previously faced scrutiny from the Russian government when Russian leaders demanded it remove the content surrounding the Ukrainian invasion for months, which the foundation said was “censorship.”
Most recently, in April, Russian mass media regulator Roskomnadzor warned the organization to take down an article that it said was disinformation, which Wikimedia also refused.