Russia’s “Mark Zuckerberg,” Pavel Durov, the CEO of the popular social media network, VKontakte, stepped down as CEO of the company and fled Russia this week. This is the latest sign of independently operated media outlets in Russia reaching their doomsday. Pavel Durov fled both his post and the country as President Vladamir Putin has begun to infiltrate VKontakte’s borders. Although this was a long time coming, now that it has actually happened, free speech platforms on Russia’s internet are becoming much more scarce.
Before abandoning ship, Durov leaked on his site documents from security services that demanded personal information of almost forty Ukraine-linked groups on Vkontakte. Users then began posting that this site named “In Contact” should be changed to “In Censorship.”
Screen Shot I took of Vkontakte Login Page
This week, Russian parliament passed a law requiring social media websites, as well as bloggers, to keep their servers in Russia and to save all information about their users for at least half a year. If the law is signed by Putin, it will be passed in August and will not only hold all media outlets more accountable for intrusive information but also will make them more vulnerable to accusations of extremism.
Anton Nossik, a leading internet entrepreneur stated in an interview with Fox News that there has, “Been a trend that started with the protests of December 2011, when the authorities started fearing the crowd and especially the online crowd… The pressure of censorship is mounting on Russian websites from lawmakers who think that the Internet is their foe.” I think Nossik describes perfectly what is happening with the Russian government and social media/ the internet. Russian politicians, led by President Putin, have decided that crowds of people physically protesting is not their only concern, but that the online community and different social and political groups forming on platforms such as VK and others, is just as much of a threat. This is another instance of the major scope of the reach of social media. Where people could only protest in the streets before, they can now do without leaving their beds. Social media has given such a super power to the people to express and congregate. However, when censorship and government control enter the picture, what are the people to do? Rally int he streets the old-fashioned way, I presume. I just cannot imagine being censored or limited in what I am able to post online. I am both interested and frightened to see if Putin passes the law, and what happens with VK…