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Former editor claims Wikipedia bias against Russia

Ex-admin says that the online encyclopedia has become a weapon in an information war

Wikipedia’s policy has during the past decade become “increasingly anti-Russian” and became even worse since the start of the conflict in Ukraine a year ago, a former editor at the Russian version of the free online encyclopedia’s variant in Russian.

“Participants with pro-Russian views were blocked, articles about Russian achievements were deleted,” from the platform over the past nine years, Arseny Natapov told the BRIEF channel on Telegram on Tuesday.

In 2014, a violent coup in the Ukrainian capital Kiev led to Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the outbreak of conflict in Donbass. This provoked a spike in tensions between Moscow and the West, which imposed sanctions on Russia and intensified Western military buildups near its borders.

Soon, these tensions were reflected online and Wikipedia was believed to have adopted an anti-Russia posture, and this, the former editor pointed out, deteriorated even further in late 2021, shortly before the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

“Many admins were Ukrainian and/or lived in EU countries. They often showed disrespect to members from Russia,” he recalled.

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When asked if he thought that Wikipedia is being used as a weapon in an information war, Natapov replied: “Yes, by both parties, with varying degrees of success.”

For a long time the reins at the Russian Wikipedia were in the hands of editors that held pro-Russian views but now they’ve been pushed out by “pro-Western and liberal members,” he said.

According to Natapov, many of the Russian admins, including himself, had to move from Wikipedia to the Runiversalis platform, the free online Russian-language encyclopedia that was launched last summer.

Before 2022, Russia’s consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, had been engaging with Wikipedia between five and ten times every year, about removing certain articles due to their containing illegal information, he said.

“But after the start of the Russian military operation, a lot of politically non-neutral articles have appeared on Wikipedia,” the former editor explained. Over the past year, the number of articles that raised concerns at the Russian consumer agency increased from 67 to 171, he added.

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“By the way, not a single request from Rospotrebnadzor has been fulfilled. There was a direct order from the [Wikipedia operator] Wikimedia Foundation on this issue, and Wikipedia’s rules stated that the website was only subject to the laws of California, where its servers are located,” Natapov claimed.

April 06, 2023 at 03:32PM

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