Moscow has ordered search engines in Russia to place a disclaimer on Wikipedia results and denounce the site as a violator of its restrictive information law, the latest effort by the country to manipulate how Russians view the war in Ukraine.
Anton Gorelkin, a member of Russia’s Parliament and vice chair of a committee on information policy, said on Telegram on Wednesday that the Wikimedia Foundation — the San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and supports its community of volunteers — had repeatedly published false information about the conflict in Ukraine. A warning message would soon be placed on its online pages, he added, describing the content as “fakes.”
Samantha Lien, a spokeswoman for the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday that the group did not know “how the new order will be implemented.”
“We stand by our volunteers and their efforts to deliver verified information about the Ukraine-Russia conflict to the world,” Ms. Lien said. “We have not complied with any orders from the Russian government to date, and remain committed to our mission to deliver free knowledge to the world.”
It is unclear which search engines in Russia the order will apply to, or how and when the disclaimer will appear.
Since the war began, Moscow has cracked down on news and speech that it considers disinformation. In March, President Vladimir V. Putin signed into law a draconian measure intended to silence war critics. The law put even the use of the word “war” off-limits.
In his Telegram statement on Wednesday, Mr. Gorelkin used the phrase “special operation” to describe the war.
On Monday, a Russian court fined Google about $360 million for failing to remove content that the country deems illegal. And other tech companies have not been spared: The Russian government blocked access to Facebook in March, and its parent company, Meta, was fined $27.5 million last year for illegal content on Facebook and Instagram.
Wikipedia has faced fierce opposition from Russian officials before. Last month, the Wikimedia Foundation challenged a Moscow court’s decision that it had committed an offense by failing to remove prohibited information on Wikipedia “largely related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Ms. Lien said.
In Ukraine, the government has also tried to control certain aspects of the media. Last month, the country’s Parliament voted to ban the distribution of Russian books and the playing or performance of Russian-language music by post-Soviet-era artists. The government has also sought to promote the Ukrainian language over Russian, which researchers estimate is spoken at home by about one in every three Ukrainians.