This past weekend, Russian news anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, famous for his vociferously pro-Kremlin punditry, was uncommonly active online. He started with launching his own page on Facebook, in order “to be with those who want to know more.” After registering, Kiselyov wrote his first post, expressing readiness to to discuss everything from “radioactive dust” to “the severities of being LGBT” (referring to infamous comments he’s made in the past about Russia’s ability to visit nuclear destruction on the United States and the need to burn and bury the organs of gays who die in car accidents). Kiselyov’s account was online for all of four hours, before it disappeared without any explanation.
At first, the public largely assumed that Kiselyov had deleted the account himself, after receiving hundreds of insulting comments. According to him, however, it was the website’s moderators who deleted the page. “Facebook keeps practicing selective political correctness,” Kiselyov wrote on Vkontakte, Russia’s leading online social network, where he quickly created another account. “But I'm in the network already,” he added, “and I'm not going to leave this space so easily.”
Russian photographer and liberal blogger Rustem Adagamov, who helped draw attention to Kiselyov’s Facebook scandal, supposed that the website might actually have blocked the account. (Adagamov has faced his own problems with censorship on Facebook.)
Видимо, ФБ Киселева был закрыт администрацией сервиса по чьей-то жалобе на поддельный аккаунт. Так что, джедай еще вернется, думаю :-)
— Рустем Адагамов (@adagamov) July 18, 2015
Apparently, moderators closed Kiselyov’s [Facebook], based on complaints about it being fake. So, the Jedi will return, I guess :-)
As it turns out, the Jedi has returned. Kiselyov's Facebook page is once again accessible, though he’s already sworn not to use the foreign network, having opted for Russia’s homegrown services, after the bad treatment.
Kiselyov's problems extend to Instagram, as well, where his account hosts just two photographs, 169 subscribers, and dozens of hateful comments. Why his Instagram account was blocked is even less clear, as users banned or suspended on Facebook aren’t usually blocked on this service also.
Meanwhile, on Vkontakte, Kiselyov has managed to attract more than 17,500 subscribers, and the number is still growing. Kiselyov undoubtedly owes some of his online popularity to his television celebrity, but the hysteria in the media surrounding his arrival at Vkontakte suggests that his social media misadventures were perhaps a scheme to excite the public and convert some users back to Russia’s number one network.
The administrators at Vkontakte wasted no time verifying Kiselyov’s account, and he promptly uploaded a video selfie, proving that the account belongs to him personally. Unlike his accounts on Facebook and Instagram, where the user base is generally more Western-leaning and liberal, Kiselyov’s readers on Vkontakte have left mostly positive comments, as well as obsequious questions (see below). Kiselyov says there’s nobody but him running his Vkontakte page.
Один вопрос: чей Крым?
Ответ: Крым наш.
There is only one question: whose land is Crimea?
Answer: Crimea is ours.
Kiselyov’s problems on Facebook and Instagram have even attracted the attention of various public officials and lawmakers. Alexander Brod, a member of the presidential council on human rights, says censorship like this should be treated as a violation of free speech.
Duma deputy Alexander Yuschenko warned that Facebook has become “a political network for coordinating various forces who work to destabilize and stir up trouble.” Yuschenko told the newspaper Izvestia that the near instantaneousness with which Facebook blocked Kiselyov indicates that the website set out to “demonize” him in advance.
Given the apparent orchestration of Kiselyov’s exit from Facebook and warm welcome at Vkontakte, Yuschenko isn’t the only one with questions about who planned what in advance of this curious fiasco.