The Kremlin has, for a long time, sponsored clampdowns of various forms on the use of the Internet. As a free flowing source of information in a country where the government likes its press regulated, it is hardly surprising that the Kremlin finds it a threat. Today the Telegraph has reported today on the latest blow: search engine Yandex will apparently abandon its practice of offering a ranking of popular blog entries. The ranking system alerted web users to the presence of expressions of, and here comes the controversial part, personal opinions via blogs. Yandex says it had apparently become a ‘platform for radicals’. Bloggers are, unsurprisingly, up in arms:
“In a situation where TV speaks exclusively about themes that suit the ruling regime, the blogosphere remains the only island of free speech,” wrote one blogger, Maxim Sviridenkov.
“People who think and feel differently from [the prime minister Vladimir] Putin and [President Dmitry] Medvedev should not be considered radicals. Closing the Yandex ratings will undoubtedly become one of the decisive moments in killing free speech.” Riding roughshod over its own slogan “Everything can be found (on Yandex)”, an executive at the company admitted that it was closing down the service because it had become too influential a media tool for its own good.
“Journalists have got into the habit of looking at the ratings page and the powers that be already regard the ranking of entries as the ‘eye of the people’,” Anton Volnukhin, the executive, wrote on the company’s corporate blog.
Yandex’s rankings system allowed internet users to see and quickly link to the most popular individual blog or diary entries on the Russian-language internet, discovering themes and stories often ignored by mainstream media.
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