“The Orthodox Lobby in Russian Wikipedia” or how history is being rewritten online

The phenomenon of the Russian Orthodox religious lobby on the Russian Wikipedia website is one of the most extreme examples of an aggressive lobby hijacking a Wikipedia site, in flagrant violation of the rules of the Russian Wikipedia and the ideals of the wider Wikipedia community. This phenomenon will be discussed in a forthcoming book with the title, “The Orthodox lobby on the Russian Wikipedia”.

The phenomenon under discussion is one of politically- and religiously-motivated control of the Russian-language site, by editors and administrators connected to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and hostile to the expression of opinions critical of the Church or sympathetic to its rivals. This lobby has a huge influence on neutral members of Wikipedia and on the audience reading articles on the site. The group operates within the Russian Wikipedia community in a way which represents the interests of the ROC and of individuals and organizations associated with the ROC. The lobby engages in activities contrary to Wikipedia’s policy and purpose, such as removing material from authoritative sources which contradicts the ROC view, manipulating facts, and capturing positions as bureaucrats, administrators, or patrons and using the resultant power to sanction participants whose actions contradict the interests of the ROC. Such activities violate the concept of a free encyclopedia and discredit the overall Wikipedia project, which has become the most popular reference source for encyclopedic information online.

The book will tell the story of the emergence and activities of this lobby. The book was created as a result of the activities of a user with the username Tempus, whom the authors contend has acted in a way which openly and grossly violates the rules of the site. A user has provided the authors with information that Tempus has persistently removed information with links to authoritative sources and which should therefore be left intact under Wikipedia rules. The site administrators have turned a blind eye to this activity. This has included edits to sensitive articles, such as the “Extremism” page, where Tempus removed an entire section on the classification of extremism which was based on material derived from the State Duma website. Tempus has also aggressively edited in the article about Professor Massimo Introvigne, which the authors of the book and film also regard as open and gross violations of Wikipedia rules. 

The authors of the book are Olga Panchenko, a lawyer, and Costantino Slobodyanyuk, editor-in-chief of the “Unsolved Crimes” newspaper. The book was written under the patronage of the Information Security Institute. 



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