Russia not blocking Wikipedia 'yet', says minister

Russian minister of digital affairs says there are no plans to shut down free online encyclopaedia, which was fined by a Moscow court for not removing what it deemed as dangerous content

By Reuters

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Published: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 6:20 PM

Russia is "not yet" planning to block Wikipedia, its minister of digital affairs said on Tuesday as a Moscow court handed the online encyclopaedia another fine for failing to remove content Russia deems illegal.

Wikipedia, which says it offers "the second draft of history", is one of the few surviving independent sources of information in Russian since a state crackdown on online content in Russia intensified after Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine in February 2022.

"We are not blocking Wikipedia yet, there are no such plans for now," Interfax news agency quoted digital affairs minister Maksut Shadaev as saying at a data forum in Moscow.

Wikipedia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Shadaev's remarks.

On Tuesday, Moscow's Tagansky District Court fined Wikipedia owner Wikimedia Foundation 800,000 roubles for what Russian news agencies said was a failure to remove information considered to be promoting train hopping, where a person rides on the side or top of a train.

Wikimedia has previously said information that Russian authorities have complained about was well sourced and in line with Wikipedia standards.

Russia has for years sought to launch a home-grown online encyclopaedia, without making much progress.

"It is being developed now," Shadaev said. "I am not prepared to say how ready it is."

Russia has similarly struggled to establish a comparable video hosting service to Alphabet's YouTube, which remains available while other foreign social media platforms have been blocked.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, said on Tuesday a court had ordered Google to pay 1 billion roubles ($12.3 million) for blocking the Duma TV YouTube channel.

"Today, the bailiff service has started seizing property, in search of these funds," Volodin said.

Google in Russia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google's Russian subsidiary filed for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account last year. The US tech giant has paused commercial operations in Russia, but free services remain available.

Russia also fined Amazon's Twitch 4 million roubles for failing to delete "false information" about Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine. Twitch had no immediate comment.

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