The international encycolpaedia website Wikipedia has been served with a clarification request by Finnish authorities who are investigating whether the site’s appeal for donations from private individuals on its Finnish language pages is illegal under this country’s law.
Fundraising legislation in Finland states that donations can only be collected by organisations working in the public interest. The National Police Board has asked the Finnish language branch of the website to explain how, by asking for donations from individuals, the encyclopaedia site is not undertaking unlicensed fundraising.
Wikimedia Suomi, a Finnish-based organisation which works in co-operation with the Wikimedia Foundation, say that the clarification request has been passed to lawyers at the Wikimedia Foundation, who are dealing with the matter.
Tommi Kovala, chair of Wikimedia Suomi, says he is surprised by the police request, as Wikipedia fundraising is not and has never been handled by the Finnish association. Donations are sent directly to the US-based Wikimedia Foundation.
“The issue here is about activities carried out by a United States-based entity, which does not even have servers here in Finland. Presumably this clarification request is related to the fact that the appeal for donations is written in the Finnish language and appears on Finnish-language Wikipedia pages,” Kovala said.
According to Kovala, Wikimedia Finland and the Finnish-language pages of the open web project are entirely independent of the American parent fund, despite the two groups working closely together.
”We use the Wikimedia brand and work in co-operation with them, but legally we act independently of each other. That may sound like splitting hairs, to say that the maintainers of Finnish Wikipedia pages, the local association and the parent foundation are all separate bodies, but this set-up is vital to maintain the neutrality of the encyclopaedia’s contents,” Kovala said.
The Finnish police have demanded a response by Friday 21st February.