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Russia Moves To Censor Google, Facebook, Twitter
Companies being compelled to register with media watchdog.
Under Vladimir Putin Russia has taken many steps backward toward its repressive, Cold War past. It’s apparently taking another by notifying Google, Facebook and Twitter that they’re now required to register as “organizers of information distribution,” according to The Dutch-owned Moscow Times.
This is reportedly a precursor to imposing what amounts to censorship restrictions comparable to those now governing mass media in Russia. There’s virtually no independent journalism left in the country.
The US internet companies have until the end of this year to register with Russia’s media “watchdog.” If they fail to do so they will face unspecified sanctions for non-compliance. The article quotes a Russian official who says that fines will not be the main penalty for failure to comply.
This sets up China-like censorship policy for the US internet companies. It remains to be seen whether Russian citizens will object or protest or simply accept the changes as a fact of life in Russia under Putin.
Putin was deeply unpopular until he stoked the flames of nationalist fervor by annexing the Crimean peninsula. His systematic effort to rein in mass media and internet sites is part of an effort to control domestic perceptions of the country and its leadership and maintain political control — a strategy long pursued relatively successfully in China.
There’s a global struggle playing out between autocratic governments and popular access to information online. Russia and China are two instances of this phenomenon.
Depending on the degree of censorship, Google, Facebook and Twitter will have to confront difficult economic, moral and philosophical questions about whether to how continue operating in the country.
According to Liveinternet.ru Google controls just under 35 percent of search in Russia, while Yandex is the leading engine with 54 percent. Bing has 0.6 percent.