LiveJournal’s Kremlin Links

1029mamut.jpgIt’s no secret that Vladimir Putin has been active in promoting the Russian government’s policies on the internet. But the Kremlin’s attempts to dominate Russian-language sectors of cyberspace have taken it into some surprising places.

Like the extremely popular blog/online diary site LiveJournal. Buried in a Washington Post piece on Kremlin PR efforts on the internet was the fact that Putin-linked oligarch Alexander Mamut bought the rights to operate LiveJournal for all Russian-language users. The license, purchased by Mamut’s company SUP, gives them control over all LiveJournal accounts that print primarily in Cyrillic, are located within the former USSR (including the Ukraine, the Baltic states & Central Asia) or use a Russian web browser.

Mamut, a former power broker during the Boris Yeltsin era, still maintains close ties to the Vladimir Putin Kremlin.

Some LiveJournal users expressed concern over the purchase, such as one who wrote to LJ owners SixApart:

I am concerned that a company based in Russia can potentially get access to private and friends-only records in my blog. I would eschew the discussion on the rationality of such worry (perhaps growing up back in the USSR made me a bit parnoid) – but at this time I simply want to state that I am worried about the change of jurisdiction of the company that handles my seemingly private content. I have to remind you that the legal landscape in Russia is different from that in the US. Being a US Citizen, I personally view such change more as a nuisance rather than an event with dire consequences. However some of my friends who reside in Russia are worried much more than me. Bottom line, as a paying customer of your service, I would like to hear some reassurances of the service quality (and perhaps even availability) under the terms for which I paid the subscription fee.

But the question here is what will happen if relations between the United States and Russia continue to deteriorate — American SixApart customers using the Russian language will find that their online archives are effectively under foreign jurisdiction. After all, the Putin government hasn’t exactly been kind to their media critics.