Legal threat for initiating article deletion in Russian Wikipedia

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11 января 2020 года

Vladimir Volokhonsky
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Vladimir Volokhonsky, an editor of the Russian Wikipedia, informed the community about a letter he received via Facebook from someone introducing himself as an attorney Vadim Kazeev. Kazeev stated that he acts on behalf of Aleksey Sitnikov the article about whom Vladimir nominated for deletion, accused Volokhonsky of «spreading untrue information about Aleksey P. Sitnikov which discredit his honor, dignity and business reputation», and threatened with legal action.

Once this was brought up at the Russian Wikipedia forum, the article received increased attention (Streisand effect), and the simmering discussion started in July 2019 was closed on the very same day — the article on the attorney's client was deleted from Wikipedia for not meeting Notability criteria.

As for the sender of the notorious message, an attorney with such a name is indeed mentioned in a roster of members at the Moscow Bar Association official website. This same attorney is shown to be a member of «Trunov, Ayvar and Partners» law firm's team.

Kazeev's message shows his misunderstanding of Wikipedia principles and policies. People editing articles are referred to as experts, though the attributed meaning remains unclear. Editing Wikipedia is being equated to a profession. Vadim Kazeev also didn't find time to figure out the facts. He is blaming Vladimir Volokhonsky for being responsible of 2011 deletion of his client-related article, even if Vladimir didn't take part in respective discussion. A more recent discussion, in which Vladimir Volokhonsky did take part, he acted in line with Wikipedia policies by bringing the attention to the lack of authoritative and convincing sources (a.k.a. «reliable sources» in Wikipedia parlance) to reference stated facts, such as Sitnikov's doctoral degree. On top of that, Vladimir's statements in the Request for Deletion in question have a hypothetical modality, i.e. subjective judgement being confirmed by the «most likely» he uses in the wording.

Wikinews correspondent and Wikimedia Russia member Dmitry Erokhin got in touch with Vladimir Volokhonsky and obtained copies of the letter with attachments and first-hand comments:

«Reading this pile of documents convinced me, that he (Sitnikov – Wikinews comments) was indeed a star of political consulting some 10-25 years ago. I discovered shared acquaintances that confirmed me that he is a rather well-known figure in this world. But really - storing a quarter-of-a-century-old certificate that you are a professor at Moscow State University... My God, I used to be a senior lecturer myself, but I don't need a certificate to prove that – anyone not banned in Google can discover that within a minute...

I am not well-versed in Russia's defense lawyers community practices but it seems that attorney Kazeev is abusing his professional status by shaping unrealistic expectations of his client regarding this situation. Or, possibly, he is using his attorney-at-law status to pressure me by sending clearly powerless attorney order. I won't know whichever is worse.

Wikipedia is an open volunteer-edited project that came up with a compendium of policies to govern collaborative work on growing the free encyclopedia. One of these rules contains direct prohibition for any legal threats. Vadim Kazeev decided to disregard this policy with the results probably being different from what he likely hoped for.


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Original report

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