Russian Encyclopaedia to replace Wikipedia in Putin's expensive attempt to curb 'fake news'

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin Photograph:( AFP )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 04, 2019, 11.50 AM (IST)

Out of distrust for Wikipedia, Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to roll out a grand Russian Encyclopaedia to put out verifiable facts and data. 

Putin's intentions can not be doubted in the wake of all false propaganda that needs to be stubbed out. 

However, Russia's track record on internet and press freedom portrays a different story, making the new announcement suspect. 

Russia under President Vladimir Putin is on an expansive growth. Into his fourth term of Presidency, Putin is the most popular and by far the longest-serving president of Russia whose every announcement is received with patriotic fervour and nationalistic pride.

It is no wonder then that his recent plan for a home-grown Encyclopaedia, on the lines of Wikipedia, is gaining popular support. This announcement came last month.

The announcement which came last month was referring to was the "Great Russian Encyclopaedia" published by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2016. This voluminous record needs to be converted to a digital format, which also requires constant updating.

Putin has proposed that once this plan goes online, users can access reliable information in a modern format.

Putin does not trust Wikipedia anymore. In 2015 the Russian language version of Wikipedia was blocked for publishing an article on cannabis and drug-related material.

Similar curbs on internet content are on the rise in Russia. Even press and media organizations have not been spared by Putin. 

Russia was on Reporters Without Borders list of countries under surveillance between 2010 and 2013.

In 2014 Russia was put on the internet enemies list

The World Press Freedom Index of 2019 ranks Russia at 149th place among 180 countries.

Attacks on the media are on the rise with 34 reported incidents of journalists being killed in connection with their work.

There is an apparent pattern adopted by Putin that explains the closed ecosystem of information in Russia where truth is increasingly becoming the casualty.

Media in Russia, including the internet is regulated by Roskomnadzor, a set of guidelines maintained by the federal department handling information technology and mass communication.

There is a centralized internet blacklist that the government can use to censor content or switch off for a temporary period without a court order.

In March 2018, a law was passed, introducing fines for those the government perceived to be spreading "fake news" and "disrespect" to the state agencies.

Recently, the Russian state enacted a law to brand any blogger or a foreign journalist working in Russia as a "foreign agent". Once branded, fines and bureaucratic restrictions will follow, pushing such groups or individuals to shut down.

Seen in this light, Putin's plans to replace Wikipedia has met criticism. Unlike China or Turkey, where Wikipedia is banned, Putin has softly suggested the creation of an alternative.

The project will require about 2 billion roubles, which is close to 31 million US dollars.

The high cost is a part of a long term strategy for Putin, which is to ensure that no news against Russia reaches the world.

Story highlights

Putin has proposed that once this plan goes online, users can access reliable information in a modern format.