Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Putin Against Google

You know that a country is not on a good path when its leaders criticize that nasty, mean Internet for spreading the news of popular unrest and political protests. The authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin and his puppet Dmitri Medvedev has decried the role that the Internet played in the recent events in Egypt:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's deputy blamed Google Inc in an interview published on Tuesday for stirring up trouble in the revolution that ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. "Look what they have done in Egypt, those highly-placed managers of Google, what manipulations of the energy of the people took place there,"Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told the Wall Street Journal. Such strong comment from one of Putin's most trusted deputies is a clear signal of growing concern among Russian hardliners about the role of the Internet in the unrest which has swept across the Arab world. . . In contrast to state television, Russia's Internet is remarkably free and the home to often scathing criticism of Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and the entire Russian elite. Russia has so far resisted placing restrictions on the Internet, but analysts say there are a group of hardliners close to Putin who would like to impose controls similar to China's.
Putin, who made his career in the KGB during the Soviet times persecuting dissidents and working as a spy, cannot fail to hate the freedom to exchange information that the Internet offers. His attacks on Google are easy to understand for anybody familiar with how the majority of the people in Russia use the Internet. The greatest and most popular Russian search engine, www.yandex.ru, doesn't index websites in the same way that Google does (based on their usefulness and degree of popularity.)  Yandex is controlled by certain political and financial groups that make sure, for example, that during elections an independent politician doesn't get his or her name listed in any searches.

One of Putin's main fears is that the Russian people will tire of Yandex's manipulation of information and will switch to Google. For now, this hasn't been happening because the Yandex format is still more familiar to the Russian people. Soon, however, they might start waking up to the idea that a search engine that restricts your access to information isn't worth using.

I'm just afraid that when the Russians finally awaken to Google, we will have already lost the last shreds of net neutrality, and Google will become exactly what Yandex is today: a convenient tool for corrupt politicians and the oligarchs who bought them.


Spanish prof said...

Well, he is taking his lead from Glenn Beck, who said something very similar last week. Another person who shouldn't be watching Fox News

Clarissa said...

I don't think Putin knows what Fox news is. :-) Or Glenn Beck. Nobody cares about such small and insignificant internecine issues of the US outside of the US.

Spanish prof said...

I know, it was a joke. Although they do know what Fox News is, at least in my country.