Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Russian Internet vs. Russian Government: My Speech At a Conference

with 4 comments

Yesterday I participated in a Conference on Cyber Dissidents held in Dallas jointly by George W. Bush Institute and Freedom House. Despite mixed feelings about GWB’s presidency, I decided to take part; I try to use every opportunity to share my views and listen to others. Both President Bush and his wife participated in the event too (Laura Bush stayed the whole day).

Thanks to the ash cloud from Iceland I had to participate via video conferencing. After all, it wouldn’t be a cyber dissidents event if everyone managed come and without these geek things. We used ooVoo and Skype and both worked well (the former one allowed multiple people to participate simultaneously but is either paid or ad-sponsored).

Here is a transcript of my speech:

Good morning.

It is honor for me to speak at this conference. I managed to watch most of the presentations and I find them amazing. I’ll share some experience that we have in Russia with the new media.

1. Almost all conventional media are blocked:

– TV directly or indirectly owned by the government;

– most radio stations and newspapers are either controlled by the authorities, or self-censored, or have little general impact.

2. Internet became a natural resort for people looking for uncensored information and free exchange of ideas.

3. Traditional ways of involvement into civic or political activities on the Internet are:

– users can gain access to alternative sources of news and opinions;

– people discuss political issues in blogs and forums that are extremely popular in the Runet (like LiveJournal);

– grassroots groups organize online and offline actions using social networks and blogs.

More online tools are utilized by protest groups including Twitter, video blogging, live broadcasts, civil journalism and Web 2.0.

Interestingly, more and more grassroots initiatives, not connected with any political groups, start on the Internet.

As penetration rate of the new technologies increases, they rapidly replace TV as the main political media.

4. Government is trying to stop this process. They are making it in a smarter way than Iranian or Chinese authorities. They don’t block all the “bad sites” right away. In fact, very few Websites are permanently blocked in Russia.

Instead, they hire hackers to put the Websites or blogs down. Targets of such attacks included Estonian official sites, leading independent online news media, opposition groups’ Websites and individual bloggers. Some of such attacks are extremely powerful and expensive.

Another way of dealing with “uncomfortable” bloggers is more conventional: persecution. Since 2008, more and more bloggers have been sentenced for “extremism.” After some recent amendments to the criminal law, almost any criticism may be considered inciting hatred against social groups–extremism. For instance, people who discussed police brutality were sentenced for inciting hatred against the police and a guy who criticized his governor was sentenced for inciting hatred against the local government as a social group. There’s no limit to your imagination.

Such showcases make many more bloggers think twice before posting anything critical.

Ultimately, the government invests a lot into their own resources. They hire Internet experts, make deals with leading sites and buy popular websites including LiveJournal. This is one of the most serious challenges to the protest groups because we’ll never match the government’s resources.

But we are still superior in creativity and enthusiasm.


Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

April 20, 2010 at 20:00

Posted in events

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Please keep the unaldulterated facts coming, Oleg. Steady and uncompromising pressure for the extension of individual freedom and the responsibility that comes with that freedom will eventually succeed.
    I think it is important to remember that every democracy went through growing pains. The citizens of the United States used and abused Native Americans, enslaved at least four million Africans, prevented women from voting and continue to treat minorities with some disrespect. The struggle continues here!

    Sam Ogilvie

    April 20, 2010 at 23:51

  2. Sam, Russia is not a democracy going through growing pains. Not for one single second of its 1,000-year history has it been anything remotely like a democracy, and not once have a majority of people made any such demand. Unfortunately, your remarks sound very much like the propaganda put out by the Kremlin, asking us to wait patiently while Russia goes through growing pains. In fact, the Kremlin wants us to wait while it wipes out the last vestiges of civil society in Russia, which ultimately would include Oleg Kozlovsky himself.

    You’d do better to call upon the Obama administration to get up off its fat, lazy, cowardly ass and speak out for democracy in Russia instead of winking as the Putin crackdown enters its final phase.


    April 21, 2010 at 00:19

  3. That’s just the point, larussophobe. We Americans claimed to be a Republic from the word go, but we were just pretenders. Only after years of struggle could one say we are truly democratic. If you disagree, I know several hundred black folks that will remind you of that!
    Lasting change must come from within, and people like Oleg have the support of millions of us around the world. Countries around the world have tired of our hypocrisy and strong arm tactics, and many of our efforts are now counterproductive. President Obama understands that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you don’t think I treasure my freedom, come try me larussophobe. Don’t confuse thoughtfulness with weakness. You name the time and place!!!

    Sam Ogilvie

    April 21, 2010 at 00:27

  4. The passing of Ms. Dorothy Height and Mr. Benjamin Hooks, two American civil rights icons, last week is a reminder that the march to freedom, equal opportunity and equality, in reality and not just by law, though long and brutal, has been graced by the leadership of remarkable individuals. Ms. Height wrote the United Nations’ Universal Declartion of Human Rights with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948, sixteen years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As the only woman among civil rights leaders, Ms. Height championed women’s rights, too. Benjamin Hooks summarized his life’s work and his goals in a speech at the NAACP convention in 2009. Quoting from his obituary in TIME, Mr. Hooks said, “Let’s fight on until justice runs down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream. Let’s fight on until there is downsizing, until there is no glass ceiling. Fight on until justice, righteousness, hope, equality, and opportunity is the birthright of all Americans.”

    As John Brown predicted at his execution, the fight for freedom in America would involve bloodshed. I hope we can avoid the same in other stuggles in the world. Nevertheless, to call an administration full of individuals who have fought the good fight for years fat, lazy and cowardly is abominable. Surely Dorothy Height, who was last seen publicly by many at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration ceremony, would have begged to differ. Russia, as talent-laden as it is, has problems, just as we do, but I am confident the likes of Oleg and others are up to the task of addressing those problems and moving forward. Benjamin and Dorothy are fine examples and certainly were kindred spirits.

    Sam Ogilvie

    April 27, 2010 at 21:07

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