The End of the Russian Internet
The Russian wire service RBK Daily broke a rather sensational story last week: The Putin regime is going into the search engine business. Foreign Policy’s Evgeny Morozov writes that Kremlin functionary Igor Ashmanov declared on Echo of Moscow radio that since Google is nothing more than a pawn of the U.S. government, there is no reason why the Kremlin should not have its own. Morozov continues:
According to RBK’s anonymous sources inside Kremlin, it would aim at satisfying “state-oriented” needs such as “facilitating access to safe information” and “filtering web-sites that feature banned content.” It’s going to be an ambitious project: the government is prepared to invest $100 million in this new venture, does not want to allow any foreign funding, and intends to build it in cooperation with the private sector.
So much for the notion that the Russian Kremlin cannot affect control over the Russian Internet and/or has no intention of doing so. Once the Kremlin has it’s own search engine in place, it can simply remove all the others from the net.
Morozov points out that Google’s market share has been rising rapidly over the past few years, and concludes that the Kremlin’s efforts are aimed directly at making sure Google cannot do in Russia what it has done in China. The Kremlin already owns a “golden share” in Russia’s most significant domestic search engine, Yandex.ru, and has forced Yandex to shut down its crucial blog ranking, which was the leading way of publicizing blog posts in the country and which had brought a number of Putin-critical bloggers to national prominence.
An effort by the Kremlin to seize control of Internet domains is already well underway, and Morozov notes that the Kremlin is also considering a plan to force all Russians to accept a government-provided e-mail address. In short, the Putin regime is now engaged n all-out war against the Russian Internet. From Vladivostok to Murmansk, an virtual iron curtain is descending across the continent, threating to cut off the perhaps 30% of the Russian population that has regular access to the Internet, and to sources of unvarnished criticism of Putin such as the blog you are reading now.
That’s how weak and nervous Putin is. Controlling a massive 70% of the population, which votes for him in lockstep like sheep, is not enough for him, nor is he satisfied with his ability to shamelessly manipulate all votes through fraud, as we document below in today’s issue. Putin must have 100% loyalty, just like Stalin before him, and he’s willing to wipe out the flow of information, choking off his country from innovation and development, in order to achieve that goal.
And just like Stalin, Putin is cloaking himself in paranoid fantasy. To openly suggest that Google is nothing but a pawn of the U.S. government is an indication of just how unhinged and detached from anything remotely resembling reality the Putin regime has become.