$750,000 spent on social media. Talk about a Facebook addiction.
Just a few weeks ago, Russia spent the equivalent of approximately $750,000 for a social media campaign aimed against the growing belief in “pseudoscience” in Russia.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Academy of Sciences has criticized the education system in Russia as one that is being increasingly tarnished, due specifically to the rampant spread of “pseudoscience” in the country.
According to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, pseudoscience, or “anti-science” as they commonly refer to it as, poses a threat to true scientific education. Over 120 academies dedicated to pseudoscience has risen in recent years, academies that CSI believes does not deserve the title of “academy.” In fact, 32 Russian scientists, all affiliated with the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences, publicly released a statement claiming that they need to fight the rise of pseudoscience with true science.
The statement can be found here.
According to The Moscow Times, as mythical and paranormal genres of literature and television gain popularity in Russia, the Russian government is pumping money into a campaign to target sites such as LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook and VKontakte, the largest Russian social media site. They intend to fund mass media publications and leaflets as well, but the primary focus is on social media.
The State Duma, essentially the lower governmental house of the Russian Federation, reported that the alternative medicine industry and supernatural services in Russia employed at least 800,000 people in 2010 and was worth at least $2 billion. After the State Duma almost invested $14 billion in a pseudoscientific invention before the Academy of Sciences debunked the invention, it is not difficult to see why Russia is adamant on quelling the spread of pseudoscientific beliefs in the country.
Russia’s use of social media in this issue is no surprise either. In light of all the authoritarian legislation that already exists in Russia, the Russian government last month passed a bill to “tighten control over foreign internet companies,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This bill essentially sets January 1st, 2015 as a deadline for foreign companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to store personal data of Russian users within Russian country borders. While these companies believe the law is unenforceable, the Wall Street Journal reports a Russian political leader declaring that these companies need to find a way to follow the new bill if “[they] want to operate on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Image courtesy of Flickr user Wonderlane.
Even indirectly, Russia aims to control the entire flow of social media within country borders. Russia’s biggest social network Vkontakte recently selected Boris Dobrodeyev to be CEO, according to Yahoo! News. Dobrodeyev is said to have strong ties with the Russian government and is in the family business of a pro-Russian government television channel.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Global Panorama.
Despite recent cases of social media providing opportunities for democratic discussions, as seen in Hong Kong, Russia’s actions stand to show that social media can still be used to manipulate in favor of an authoritarian regime. With their new $750,000 investment, Russia is showing that they have no plans on slowing down.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user mkhmarketing.