Never let it be said that Russian strongmen lack foresight. Although the unrest in the Arab world doesn’t seem to be stoking any rebel movements among the subjects of the Kremlin, its denizens aren’t taking any chances. They believe that the use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to coordinate protests isn’t just an example of fortuitous technological improvisation. It is a Western plot — and Russian leaders are preparing contingency plans if something similar occurs within their jurisdiction.
According to a piece in The Moscow Times, the plans include changes in law and policy. Security agencies have proposed that owners of social-media sites be made responsible for all comments on their sites, a way to pressure them to turn over data on individual users who might be subject to criminal prosecution. And there’s this:
A couple years ago, the Kremlin opened its own “school of bloggers,” and although the school was supposedly later shut down, the same initiative was taken up by the regions. This project was organized by the Foundation for Effective Policy, a think tank run by Kremlin-friendly political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky. Judging by the courses it offers — such as “Velvet Revolutions: A Warning” — the group is charged with a single overriding task: to resist the “subversive activity” of the West.
The head of United Russia’s political department, Alexei Chadayev, controls funding to the Kremlin school of bloggers. In February, he published an article in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta in which he wrote that “the 2011 State Duma elections will be the first in the history of our country in which the Internet-based campaign will be of equal or greater importance than the campaign in the traditional mass media.”