Businessman: Wikipedia must be responsible for slander published there

Tartu Courthouse.
Tartu Courthouse. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

Estonian businessman and Isamaa party sponsor Parvel Pruunsild has filed a claim in Tartu County Court against head of Wikimedia Estonia Ivo Kruusamägi and (Reform Party) politicians Andrus Ansip and Jürgen Ligi. Pruunsild wants claims according to which he has benefited from Estonia's pension reform overturned.

Pruunsild told ERR that the lawsuit was motivated primarily by an article on the Estonian Wikipedia (Vikipeedia) website that he claims includes false information. "The Wikipedia article suggests that Bigbank (owned in part by Pruunsild – ed.) and I personally have benefited from the reform that made the second pension pillar voluntary. This is slander pure and simple," the businessman said.

The claims made in the Wikipedia entry are from an article by Sulev Vedler that was published in weekly Eesti Ekspress in 2019.

The weekly wrote that Andrus Ansip suspects Pruunsild wants to dismantle Estonia's mandatory funded pension scheme, the so-called second pillar, as it would allow Bigbank debtors to settle their accounts using pension assets the reform would allow them to withdraw ahead of time. Pruunsild is a major sponsor of the Isamaa party that pushed for the reform.

"My lawyer Paul Keres has included as co-defendants those who helped spread the false claim and slander – Andrus Ansip and Jürgen Ligi. The slander needs to be disclaimed." Pruunsild added that he only found out in November that a Wikipedia article had been written about him, which motivated to action. "I was told it was the first thing that pops up when someone searches my name, and it includes those slanderous claims. If we are to believe that Wikipedia does its job, someone must be responsible for making sure slander does not make the cut," the businessman remarked.

He also told ERR that he has not yet decided whether he is seeking damages. "Above all, I demand these claims be overturned, as they are absolutely slander," Pruunsild said.

First time Wikipedia in Estonia taken to court

Chairman of the board of NGO Wikimedia Estonia and Wikipedia administrator Ivo Kruusamägi referred to Pruunsild's statement of claim as noteworthy as it constitutes the first time Estonian Wikipedia has been taken to court.

Kruusamägi said that it is important to remember that Wikipedia is not the original source of texts and investigations. "Wikipedia, like any other encyclopedia, publishes summaries of original sources. Those who do not like it are free to turn to, for example, the newspaper and demand they overturn their claims, and if they manage to convince the paper to do that, Wikipedia will report that the paper first said one thing about them and then something else," he offered.

He added that threatening Wikipedia contributors with legal action and suing them is a very bad idea. "Legally speaking, we are dealing with violation of a person's fundamental rights, which we do not recommend to anyone. Those interested in shaping the contents of the online encyclopedia are welcome to cooperate in accordance with Wikipedia rules, while we always consider courteous and justified remarks about our contents. Wikipedia continues to represent free access to information," Kruusamägi said.

A spokesperson for the Tartu court told ERR on Monday that Pruunsild's action against Kuusamägi, Ansip and Ligi seeks the repudiation of false claims and compensation for damages. It is not yet clear whether the court will accept the action or when.


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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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