Global Voices reports on the only way Vladimir Putin can win friends and influence people (other than crude violence). Note the false analogy to the U.S. — there is no evidence of the American police forces paying bloggers to paper over their human-rights abuses for cash, and if there were it would be a gigantic international scandal. Procter & Gamble paying a consumer blogger to say he likes Head & Shoulders is hardly the same as the Russian state paying a political blogger to say the police don’t crack skulls.
Recently, Roman Dobrokhotov, a Russian blogger and political activist (who was interviewed by GV [EN] last year), has conducted an investigation [RUS] on how paid blogger networks function in the Russian blogosphere. He wrote that different representatives of the paid blogger network had contacted him three times, offering from $23 to $50 per post. Every blogger who agrees to provide content for a fee is supposed to choose a unique angle when writing about a certain topic. The latest offer that Dobrokhotov received was quite unusual: to write positive comments about the Russian police:
A manager of the company Garin-studio offered me to post a whole series of posts with some positive content about the police. For the first post – 2,000 rubles ($63), all others – 1,000 rubles each ($31). I’ve managed to unearth more detailed information. It turned out that the client of the company is the federal Ministry of the Interior, not the Moscow Police Department; what is even more interesting, the order was from the Department of Internal Security [which is supposed to control and monitor the police itself] (aha, so that’s what they do!). There are 50 bloggers involved in this project, though with some of them, with the most popular (for example, with Radulova), the client is in direct contact. Garin-studio, as far as I understood, isn’t the only contractor used by [the Ministry of the Interior].
Other bloggers spotted [RUS] some nearly simultaneous posts with positive comments about the police at Natalia Radulova’s blog [RUS] and at another popular blog by Maxim Aleksandrov [RUS].
In a recent issue of the New Yorker magazine, Russia blogger Julia Ioffe wrote about the Russian teen who created Chatroulette. Ioffe also answered questions from the magazine’s readers in a live chat. Here is the transcript:
JULIA IOFFE: Hello, everyone! Julia Ioffe here, and very happy to be here. Can’t wait to get at some of these questions.
QUESTION FROM ARUIZCAMACHO: Your portrait of Ternovskiy’s first acquaintance with America is very poignant. Have you kept in touch with him? How’s he adjusting to his new country lately?
JULIA IOFFE: Yes, I’ve tried to stay in touch with Andrey, partially because it’s hard to just let go of an interesting person you get to know so well by reporting a story. It was also especially interesting to me to hear how he was adjusting to America given his high hopes for the place. At first, and especially after he got to San Francisco, he seemed to swoon a bit. Then as reality hit—meetings, the need to work and improve the site, the loneliness of turning 18 without your family—he cooled to it and told me that America is just like everywhere else—boring.
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.
Russia’s Lame excuse for an Internet
A recent article on the Lenta.ru website (Russian language link) confirms that two-thirds of Russian households have no access to the Internet (only 0.1% of Russians use Twitter). That’s not news, of course, we’ve often reported on Russia’s puny level of Internet penetration, and it’s no surprise: In a country where the average wage is $3/hour, but where Internet access costs the same as it does in the West, paying for Internet access is a luxury few can afford. And as we’ve said before (click the “Internet” category in our sidebar to read our extensive reporting on this subject), the one-third figure is a gross overstatment of Russia’s true level of Internet access, because it includes as “users” those who may go online as rarely as once a month and then only for a few minutes.
But the Lenta article did report a surprising fact: It stated that half of all respondents who could access the Internet were doing so by means of their cell phones.
An advertisement for Beeline
Other Russia reports:
The meaning of extremism in Russia has expanded to include basic forms of dissent, according to Representative Evgeny Arkhipov of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights.
In a press release on Monday, Arkhipov stated that the news of a Russian telecommunications firm banning access to opposition websites was evidence of a growing trend in the country to persecute dissident activism as extremism.
“In this case, the actions of the authorities have once again confirmed that the country and political system are striving towards totalitarianism,” the lawyer asserted. “This tendency will continue down the road, with tougher methods in the battle against dissent and civil opposition movement and with the suppression of the basic rights and freedoms of citizens.”
“This idea is absurd, awkward and useless. Cyrillic domains are just the first step toward fundamentally creating a separate and fully controlled ‘territory’ in the global network. All these measures will significantly weaken, if not eliminate, the possibility of foreign information influencing the population of Russia, especially the younger generation. It will ensure that their vision of the world better corresponds to the ideology of Russia’s rulers.”
–A Russian commenter on the New York Times Russian language website, responding to the idea that Russia will have Internet domain names in the Cyrillic alphabet
The New York Times reports:
The Kremlin has long been irritated by the way the United States dominates the Internet, all the way down to the ban on using Cyrillic for Web addresses — even kremlin.ru has to be demeaningly rendered in English. The Russian government, as a result, is taking the lead in a landmark shift occurring around the world to allow domain names in languages with non-Latin alphabets.
Russians themselves, though, do not seem at all eager to follow.
Posted in internet, russia
Flashback, early 2008: Citibank officials are witnessing a huge spike in fraudulent withdrawals from New York area ATMs — $180,000 is stolen from cash machines on the Upper East Side in just three days. After a stakeout, police arrest one man walking out of a bank with thousands of dollars in cash and 12 reprogrammed cards. A lucky traffic stop catches two more plunderers who’d driven in from Michigan. Another pair are arrested after trying to mug an undercover FBI agent on the street for a magstripe encoder. In the end, there are 10 arrests and at least $2 million dollars stolen.
The wellspring of the dramatic megaheist turns out to be more prosaic than imagined: It started with a breach of the public website of America’s most famous convenience store chain: 7-Eleven.com.