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disinformation

Ukraine: countering Disinformation in the wake of Russian invasion

For almost a year now, Russia has been waging a brutal all-out invasion of Ukraine. While the situation in Ukraine today isn’t easy, the most difficult period was the first four to six weeks of the invasion – when Ukraine’s capital was under assault, and many people across the world feared the country would fall to its larger enemy. But Ukraine withstood against the odds – and so did Ukrainian Wikipedia. How the Ukrainian community of Wikipedia volunteers remained resilient to challenges?

A crucial source of information

As Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February this year, millions of Ukrainians were desperately looking for information. People were trying to understand the war’s general context, but also looking up specific actionable information – from rules of crossing the border to recipes of a Molotov cocktail.

Along with news publishers and other sources of information, Wikipedia saw its popularity surge. In April, the Ukrainian-language edition of Wikipedia attracted 106,877,169 user views, its second highest month in history. The most popular article – about Russia’s invasion – raked in 3 million views in less than six months, an absolute record for UkWiki. (In case you were wondering, the Molotov cocktail article gained almost 140,000 views in February – twice as many as for the whole five years before).

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Retrospective: a year of advocacy at Wikimedia France

Wikimedia France looks back on 2021, a year of advocacy campaigns at national and European level. Bringing the voice of community-governed platforms such as Wikipedia – besides the commercial ones – is not always easy. And while legislators and policy makers receive our arguments and concerns generally positively, there is still a long way to go before our messages and initiatives claim to be embedded in the texts that shape and frame the digital of tomorrow.

Several bills have, this past year, impacted Wikimedia projects and particularly the collaborative online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Without going into a Prévert-style inventory, Wikimedia France wants to come back to some of its battles that it has carried out relentlessly, in order to defend a vision of a free and open Internet, protecting the rights and freedoms of users.

The Republican Principles bill or “the French DSA”

The bill reinforcing respect for republican principles, originally called “law project against separatism”, was not intended to regulate digital platforms. Indeed, the main objective of this text was to “fight against radical Islam and separatism”. But policy experts ended up qualifying it as a “catch-all”, insofar as a lot of subject matter had been inserted into it, including digital issues.

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The truth is out there: 8 steps to tackle disinformation in the EU

In the context of dangers magnified by the spread of disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the mixed results produced by the voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation, the European Commission called for input from stakeholders on this topic. It is as much a fight for trustworthy knowledge, as it is against false online disinformation. This struggle is hardwired into the Wikimedia movement, starting with the very first Wikipedia entry.

Wikimedia community in search for truth

Unbalanced exposure of citizens to misleading or fabricated information is a major challenge for Europe and the world today. There is no technical or financial magic bullet: all actors in the digital and political ecosystem must work to implement concrete and coherent actions to improve access to trustworthy information sources and contain the spread of online disinformation. We need an array of cascading long-term policies and actions.

Wikimedia communities have always worked towards creating credible and reliable sources of information and have always sought to recognise and limit the spread of unreliable sources and non-factual information. Specific attention and community rules exist across the projects on estimating which sources are reliable and can be used on Wikipedia, for instance.

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