VKontakte is a social network based in Russia and is among the most popular social media sites all over Europe. Especially in Russia, VKontakte effectively replaces Facebook as the top social network website. Recently, VKontakte got banned in Russia over what the authorities claimed to be a ‘mistake’. Access to the site was restored briefly.
Free speech and political dissent in Putin’s regime isn’t exactly a cherished right, at least not so in the eyes of the Russian authorities. However, defying this unspoken-of policy, VKontakte has allowed political dissidents to connect with each other and organize protests.
Russian authorities have tried to persuade the company’s founder, Pavel Durov, to shut down such groups which allow activists to connect and organize. However, Durov has turned down these requests so far.
In view of this, it is rather telling when the largest social network in Russia goes down by ‘mistake.’ According to an official spokesperson for the relevant Russian governmental body, “This happened by mistake.”
However, many have interpreted it as a test-drive by the Putin government to see how a possible ban on VKontakte can impact the Russian users and how the social network itself may respond to such a move. This interpretation seems very likely, especially because Putin has been working really hard to bring all major media outlets under the influence, or control, of the government.
Of course the Russian government refuses to acknowledge this openly, but Putin’s friends have been busy buying stakes in all major media houses. In fact, 48% shares of VKontakte were also purchased recently by Ilya Sherbovich, who is closely identified with the Putin regime.