In the battle for the internet, the big question has to do with the United States maintaining control. (So long as the companies in command aren’t bought out by foreign conglomerates, no worries.) So far as the actual domain names are concerned, that is not an issue. Physical storage of data, on the other hand, is becoming one. Russia, for example, passed a law in 2014 that says social media data storage must be held on servers within Russia. This week, social media networking site LinkedIn was found to be in violation of that law, and has been shut down in Vladimir Putin’s territory.
The Kremlin says there’s nothing to worry about, but Russian social network users fear that blocking LinkedIn is only a first step.
Many believe this ban is about censorship and control, not data protection. They’re concerned that more popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be next.
One vivid cartoon shows the grim reaper, bearing the logo of Russia’s communications regulator, heading for a door with the Facebook logo. Behind him lies a trail of blood from attacks on other sites.
Another user declares that the ban on LinkedIn marks “a new era in mass censorship,” while another fears that further restrictions will be creeping: “They’re like sadists, doing it bit by bit.”
LinkedIn officials are interested in talking to Russian authorities to resolve the local data storage questions, as local service providers have already started shutting off access to the site. At this time, the Russian government does not look to be ready to intervene should this issue turn into a bigger nightmare.
However, the people of Russia are not happy with the appearance of censorship given the history of Soviet practices for several decades in the 20th century.
Social media has played a critical role in organising opposition protests in Russia. Such sites have also become an increasingly important alternative source of information, as state control over traditional media has increased.
If that is the case, LinkedIn is a curious first step given the nature of the platform. But just like with anything else,
starting up censorship has to begin somewhere.