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Russia: The Second Blog War


(more buttons and userpics are here)

The Russian-language blogosphere (commonly known as ZheZhe) is on fire: some users are shutting down their blogs, others are emigrating to the virtual Trinidad & Tobago – all because LiveJournal.com's owner Six Apart has decided to team up with the Russian internet company Sup, founded this year by Aleksandr Mamut, a Russian “oligarch,” and Andrew Paulson, an American entrepreneur.

This isn't the first time that ZheZhe (an abbreviation of ZhivoyZhurnal – “LiveJournal” in Russian) is in rebellion: the first “blog war” has been documented by Anna Arutunyan in the July 2005 issue of the Exile.

Assurances from managers of Six Apart and Sup have left many unconvinced and still concerned over whether the Russian security services would gain access to their personal information and whether the new Abuse Team would carry out ruthless purges. A number of ethnic Russian bloggers are furious over the fact that some of Sup's top managers are Jewish; their favorite object of hate now seems to be Anton Nossik (LJ user dolboeb), whose opinion on journalist Anna Politkovskaya's assassination was translated for Global Voices earlier this month.

LJ user kimmi8, a Six Apart employee, attempts to clarify the situation (and LJ user yakovis translates her entry, posted in the lj_biz community, into Russian):

We've licensed SUP, a Russian internet company, the right to use the LiveJournal brand. They'll be operating portions of the LiveJournal service for our Russian userbase (and only for those that want this support). This partnership is an effort to improve the speed, usability, and services that are offered to our Russian community. The only changes that Russian users will see is an improvement to user experience, translation, and support.

The Russian users that have agreed to this support will still continue to be a part of LiveJournal, for as long as they want to be. SUP will be able to promote other products or services they develop to the Russian community, but they won't be able to disconnect anyone from LiveJournal or break apart the community. LiveJournal will still be in control of your journals. We're partnering with SUP to offer a better experience, since we know we've been strongly limited by not being able to serve our Russian community in their native language.

Here are a few of the common questions we know you have:

* What criteria will be used to determine whether a journal is “Russian” or not?

It will be a combination of if you write primarily in Cyrillic, have listed your location as a country from the former USSR, or use a Russian browser.

* Will there be a way to opt out of having my journal transfered?

No journals are being transferred; it's just a change in how the site will be supported. You will be able to opt out of getting the new Russian features, and to continue to be supported by LiveJournal/Six Apart).

* Will information from these journals be given to the Russian government? Personal information?

No. Not in any way that would not happen today, such as a court-ordered subpoena. SUP is acting as our agent and will be bound by our Privacy Policy.

[…]

According to the results of an LJ opinion poll, over 50 percent of respondents (1,741 votes so far) are against Sup's takeover; roughly 20 percent are still undecided and as many don't care; and only 8.5 percent consider the changes positive.

LJ user sholademi, whose post on children's drawings of Vladimir Putin was featured on Global Voices in August, thinks that ZheZhe won't last till winter.

This must be a bit of an exaggeration – even though some of the 300,000-plus Russian users’ accounts will surely land in Trinidad & Tobago's blogosphere, as a result of the ongoing virtual exodus flash mob: “Let's make this small but proud state the leader of the world Internet!”

Another resistance initiative has been suggested by a Ukrainian-language blogger none_smilodon, who decided to write his entries using Greek script instead of the Cyrillic:

***

There are currently three LJ communities (RUS) whose members oppose Sup: anti_prodazha (“anti-sale: We are for freedom in the LJ”), antisup, and no_sup.

***

One LJ community, sup_ru, is maintained by dolboeb and contains suggestions to Sup's management (RUS) on how to improve ZheZhe, among other things.

***

LJ user yojik_yamamoto chronicles (RUS) what he calls “the hysteria.”

26 comments

  • [.. Read more about the Russian Blog Wars and some translated opinions on Havards: Global Voices Online. Thank you for looking into this and providing us Expats and foreign readers with translations..]

    http://www.moscow-blog.com/?p=277

    I would be not worried about the FSB, but more about the self-censorship the company will apply. Read more in my article about this.

  • Michael

    This deal doesn’t include only Russia citizens. Worst, it is including any journal of russian-speaking and writing author, from any country, like USA, Israel, Ukraina, Belorussia, etc… This is worst. Many russian speaking livejournal authors think, this is out of any ethic, to take their journals to control inside country, they are not belonging, and even they don’t want to belong. Their feeling about Russia are awfull, so it was reason of emigration. And these feeling are return, when they heard, that their russian speaking community was sold to somebody who have connections to goverment, or ever. Russia is too far for real democracy. But who cares. Deal is deal, money on first place.

  • Trace

    I don’t know why there is so much buzz around this LJ and Sup agreement… Apart from JJ there are also Blogmania blogs based on Typepad platform – one of the Sixapart platforms that stays untouched by any contracts and at the same time has its russian version…. As far as I know these blogs are also fo free… and seems like I can easily transfer my JJ account to platform anytime(Как сохранять и экспортировать livejournal?)… So it seems that all these discussions are a little bit exaggerated ;)

  • I think it is just a silly flash mob mentality.

    How long have there been Russian web servers for various internet service providers?

    Are those Russian ISPs and webhosting companies being asked by the FSB or some other authority to cough up personal information?

    If not, then how is LJ being owned by a Russian company a threat to ZheZhe?

    Finally, do these people really think that the FSB isn’t capable of monitoring what is being said, and by whom – with or without a Russian company owning LJ? There are any number of site tracking programs that collect ISPs of people who visit any particular website – I’m sure the FSB is at least as sophisticated as that, if they really wished to track what people are discussing or collect personal information. This is true regardless of where the server is located or who owns the company.

    From what I originally read, much of this started out as an anti-semetic reaction among certain ZheZhe users and then expanded into a general negative reaction, without any sensible basis in facts or logic.

    It is very naive to presume that you have any real degree of privacy on the internet, regardless of who owns the servers or webservice.

  • […] Global Voices Online � Blog Archive � Russia: The Second Blog War The Russian blogosphere – the ZheZhe – goes nuts as LiveJournal licenses its software and brand to a company with connections to the Putin government (tags: russia globalvoices freespeech blogs) […]

  • Pingback: Ven

    […] GVO: Russia: The Second Blog War […]

  • […] The Russian blogosphere has been in turmoil for the last week with the news that LiveJournal, the site used most frequently by Russian-language bloggers, was partnering with Russian internet company Sup. Sup is owned by Aleksandr Mamut, a well-connected oligarch and political insider. While there’s no indication from Sup or SixApart, which owns LiveJournal, that the partnership will give Russian authorities access to the personal data of LiveJournal users – indeed, GV’s Veronica Kholkhova reports that SixApart has assured users this won’t happen – many bloggers are moving their writing off the LiveJournal servers or taking other steps to ensure that their content won’t be monitored by Sup’s “abuse team”. […]

  • […] The Second Blog War continues in Russia. […]

  • […] Russian bloggers, unlike the world media, have been all over the controversial Six Apart-Sup deal in the past few weeks – and some, including Maxim Kononenko (LJ user mrparker, creator of Vladimir Vladimirovich™ spoofs on Vladimir Putin), have also been monitoring what little is being written outside Russia. Never too congenial, Kononenko passed an extremely harsh judgment (RUS) on Morozov’s piece – and Morozov provided a translation: I’m honoured: Mr Parker, one of the most odious figures on the Russian blogosphere, has just awarded with “prize of the month” for “the most clinical idiotism, which can only be reached in analytic journalism”. […]

  • Void

    I would only like to comment that most of the distressed users are in no way antisemitic and are concerned not with the nationality of some corporate persona (after all, that would be downright silly – no significant number of LJ was ever concerned with national origins of Six Appart management). I am not a nationalist and was NEVER concerned with anyone’s cultural or national origins.

    However, I strongly diaprove of SUP affair. You see, the very thought that any entity that is subject to Russian laws and the (abyssmally, terrybly) corrupt Russian courts might, even THEORETICALY, gain access to my LJ, is extremely distressive to me.
    Same concerns for the new Russian Abuse Team. I totaly disaprove of it because this entity may be manipulated with relative ease to supress free speech, which is not fairly uncommon in Russia.

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