world war E
dispatches from the network society

the networked kremlin

“YouTube for the Russian opposition is the only way to communicate.”
– Gary Kasparov

Opposition politicians and independent media in Russia claim that the Kremlin is behind a string of attacks on their web sites, part of a systemic effort to intimidate and obstruct the free flow of information. The targeted politicians fall on both sides of the political spectrum, from liberal to extreme conservative. It is likely such politically-motivated cyber attacks will intensify in the leadup to Russia’s Duma elections this December. The Kremlin denies involvement.

Simultaneously, the government is applying legislation to crack down on ‘extreme’ web sites including those supporting Chechen separatism and the slander of government officials (a closure under the latter condition must be approved by a judge).

The attacks recall the opening salvo of World War E, where Estonia’s government web sites were disabled by a coordinated assault allegedly originating in Moscow. Yet for all these efforts, the internet continues to be fertile ground for opposition politics, as the quote from Gary Kasparov suggests. As the confines of the network society increasingly elude containment by state authority, government’s will inevitably seek to apply more and greater control on access to virtual content and physical access to the internet itself. How succesful these efforts will be depends on the ability of networks to interoperate cooperatively – for instance, how activists in China, the Middle East and elsewhere around the world are using the internet to circumvent restraints on overt organization. The networked Kremlin represents one governmental response – the desire to centralize control over content through formal legislative means and undeclared cyberwar, using distributed networks themselves as a feedback system for consolidating political power.

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