Just yesterday, a law in Russia came into effect which will impose incredibly restrictive laws upon blogging within the country. According to this BBC article, “bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country’s larger media outlets. Internet companies will also be required to allow Russian authorities access to users’ information. It includes measures to ensure that bloggers cannot remain anonymous, and states that social networks must maintain six months of data on its users. The information must be stored on servers based in Russian territory, so that government authorities can gain access.”
Obviously, this is a move to prevent regime criticism, ensure that people’s main sources of information come from government backed sources, and an attempt to keep them from accessing sources outside of Russia. They will also effectively shut down bloggers ability to communicate with each other, share info and links, and give their readers a more rounded view of what they are reading, which has always been one of the most important facets of blogging.
Topical blogging, such as war-blogging, illustrates how blogs can be used for knowledge creation and knowledge sharing. A blog can bring together many points of view from many different blogs and many different articles from around the web, into a single post by linking to them (for an example see Fig. 3). Comments and trackbacks allow readers of the post to contribute their own relevant links that help tosupport or reason against the argument. That post can then be used and combined with other posts in other blogs, and in doing so, further the argument.
However, forcing larger blogs to register or be shut down, and trying to scare smaller blogs into not increasing their readership, is unlikely to stop them actually blogging. as the article says, Russian bloggers are already passing on ways to access their work through proxies, and circumvent firewalls. In addition, denying access to social media sites may have a bigger knock-on effect than Russia realises – Sarah Joseph’s work “Social Media, Political Change and Human Rights” notes that during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, disrupting social media actually may have caused more protest activity out in the streets, and galvanised so-called ‘armchair activists’ into taking a more serious stand (p 161-162/p45-46 in pdf version.)
Of course, it is hard to say what the effect of this law will be on the Russian people by looking at other censored countries. The Arab Spring social media blackouts were hastily imposed and not backed up by laws, and other comparable countries such as China have very different policies – in China sites are reactively policed and individual messages deleted (as described in this study – Bamman, D., O’Connor, B., Smith, N., “Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media” First Monday, March, 2002) From a personal standpoint, I hope that it can. According to the site Internet World Stats only an estimated 44.3% of the Russian population has internet, which may seem very low to many of us, yet that still amounts to roughly 4.6 million people, whose right’s to information and opinion may just have been greatly reduced.