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Belarus Cracks Down On VKontakte 111

Posted by timothy
from the nice-firm-clapping dept.
decora writes "On several recent Wednesdays, Russian language social networking site Vkontakte has been blocked by the government of Belarus. The blocks are partly to prevent the organization of 'Silent Protests,' in which citizens gather in city squares, and clap in protest against president Alexander Lukashenko. The government has designated the people involved as "social network revolutionaries" and charged many with disorderly conduct. One VKontakte user, Mikhail Karatkevich, is to be put on trial August 10 for 'organizing a mass rally' after he posted a meeting notice onto his page. According to Charter 97, the regime has even set up fake proxy servers to capture the unwitting; Tor is the suggested solution."
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Belarus Cracks Down On VKontakte

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  • When internet access becomes a human right, the action of censorship will become illegal
    • What about a radio or TV?

      So whats so special about the internet?

      Crawl out of your basement and get in touch with the real world pal.

  • Now who do you think would also set up a few Tor servers to listen in?
    • by rbrausse (1319883)

      as VKontakte is a clone/rip-off of Facebook I would imagine that the EULA regarding real names are similar instructed and enforced. (can't prove my point, I don't speak/read Russian)

        it is kind of senseless using an anonymizing network to write something with your real name attached...

      • How would VKontakte (or Facebook, for that matter) enforce that someone enters their real name? It's not like you have to present an ID when you register. Special-interest groups (dissidents?) could agree on pseudonyms out-of-band and use them just on the social network.
        • by rbrausse (1319883)

          Facebook actually block accounts when someone (or the software) believe the name is fake.

          Social networks are great tools for organising protests, with the big advantage of openness and the big disadvantage of openness. The currents uproars (North Africa, Middle East, Belarus, ...) are driven by the masses; the demonstrations are successful because a notable percentage of the citizens are participating. Using of pseudonyms would slow down the information flow, and this would (arguable) the end of the protest

          • Facebook actually block accounts when someone (or the software) believe the name is fake.

            [citation needed]

            If this is actually true, I want to read it from an authoritative source.

      • by Nysul (1816168)

        If they are similarly enforced, my dog has a facebook page, so I think as long as you use any realistic sounding name it doesn't have to be linked to your real identity at all.

        • by mrogers (85392)
          But your dog isn't (I assume) a political activist. Facebook doesn't go out of its way to track down accounts with false names, but if someone complains that your account has a false name, it will be suspended until you provide legal documentation of the name, such as a passport or driver's license.

          This has happened, and continues to happen, to activists around the world. Michael Anti [wikimedia.org], the Chinese journalist, was one high-profile case. There's a Facebook fan page about him, but he's no longer allowed to h

      • Tor is not only for hiding your identity from the server; it's also useful for preventing your ISP from learning who you're connecting to, and for tunnelling aroud any firewalls that might be in place (as long as tor itself isn't blocked).

        For example, I commonly use ssh over tor. Since I'm authentifying to the server, I'm obviously not hiding from it, but I prevent my ISP from knowing where I ssh to.

        -- jch

      • by utkonos (2104836)
        EULA? It's enforced by connecting your account to a cell phone. You can buy a SIM card anywhere with no ID and no questions asked. Sometimes in Russia places like Evroset will ask for ID, but most places don't, and nowhere in Ukraine asks for anything at all except money.
    • If Vkontakte allows HTTPS connections, install the Perspectives addon and let them. They can listen to garbage.

  • I wonder if dictators are getting scared with the mass amounts of revolutions everywhere. It is like revolution fever! It is just simply sad about how many people are losing their lives in these. It just goes to show you how corrupt the governments are when people are getting killed for non violent protests.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    authoritarian governments to track down dissidents. On Thursday, Al Jazeera, broadcast a documentary about how authorities in Bahrain were able to efficiently utilize Facebook to apprehend dissidents.

    [quote]
    It tells the story of Ayat al Qurmezi, a 20-year-old woman, who first attracted attention from authorities by publicly reading a poem that was critical of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and the king.

    Her actions, at Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the focal point of the demonstrations, led to a Face

  • Silently standing and clapping hands -- that brings passive-aggressive behavior to the whole new level!

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Silently standing and clapping hands -- that brings passive-aggressive behavior to the whole new level!

      The summary said "stand there, and clap".

      Maybe a large number of them are infected with chlamydia.

    • Because you think protesting aggressively in a former Soviet republic would go off well...?
      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        No, because protesting involves EXPRESSING WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU AGAINST, AND WHY.

        So far, "protests" look more like "we hate everything about everything here, and hope some foreign invaders will replace it with something we will like".

        • Or they think that the thing they're protesting against is so obvious they don't have to come right out and say it.
          • by Alex Belits (437) *

            It's only "obvious" to Americans -- for them every protest is "for democracy".

            • Not really what I was going for, and thanks for lumping us all in with the minority Tea Party. Thanks a lot.

              Better example: One of those (more progressive, obviously) Middle Eastern countries cuts off Internet access. The same day, a bunch of people take to the streets in protest. I think we can safely say, that it would be pretty obvious what they were protesting.

  • I don't see anybody trying to bring democracy to that country, might it be that there is nothing to take there? No oil and the only gas is coming out of that gas bag of a 'president'? Lukashenko is even more pathetic than the Dear Leader of North Korea, he can't even threaten anybody with anything except his own citizens.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Belarus is a country of about 9.5 million people in Eastern Europe. When the Soviet Union and other communist regimes fell world over during the late 1980s and early 90s, Belarusians did nothing. It is one of the last reminiscences of Soviet-era communism in Europe – when the other Eastern Bloc countries started the transition to democracy, market economy and European integration as soon as the Russian dominance fell, Belarusians chose to remain a closed, authoritarian, communist society. Now, when ev

    • by roman_mir (125474) on Friday August 05, 2011 @05:56AM (#36995034) Homepage Journal

      Now, when even Russia has moved towards democracy and continues to have one of the most liberal economies in the world

      - wow, what a load of crap! What does it mean 'liberal' in this context? What Russia has today is an insanely controlling top heavy government, which is involved in shaking down all of the businesses that are not the largest raw material and energy exporters. You can't do business in Russia if you actually follow the rules, you will never make a single ruble of profit by following the rules, which are almost on purpose designed to discourage any business activity. You can only do business in Russia if you do things in various shady to semi-shady ways, only then you can actually have some profit, and I believe this is done on purpose, so that nobody can be 'crystal clear' and everybody always has something that he can be incriminated with, because that's the way the government likes it - making sure they can always throw you behind bars and confiscate your business, which they often do. Of-course they can do it even without finding anything actually shady, they can come up with insane 'evidence' and people who will support it and put you behind bars regardless of any evidence, and the courts are told what to do.

      If THAT is what you consider liberal, then it's liberal.

  • Journalists who visit Belarus (and there are very few that are allowed) often come back saying that Belarus is the last Soviet republic. One party system, state controls everything, massive corruption, deteriorating everything, you name it. All the negatives of soviet style communism with none of the positives of actual Marxist ideals. People are often rated as being more free to criticize their government in China, Cuba, or Iran than they are in Belarus.
    • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Friday August 05, 2011 @07:10AM (#36995270)

      All the negatives of soviet style communism with none of the positives

      Belarus avoided the collapse that plagued all other former Soviet republics (including Russia) by keeping its system intact and has a higher standard of living than the others because of it.
      http://www.elenastravel.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?action=belarus#eco [elenastravel.com]

      Better to have a corrupt dictator running the country who otherwise believes in what he's doing than to have normal business interests running things, it seems.

      • i'd rather be free and poor than a well-to-do slave

        • Free how? In the USA it's free to be homeless if you can't find a job. But apparently Belorussians will all be slaves until they have unrestricted access to Facebook.
          You disrespect all who have suffered in slavery.

          • if you don't have freedom of political expression, you are a slave

            it's not about facebook, it's about the right to speak your mind and to choose your government. if you can't choose your government or openly criticize it, yes, you are a slave

            that is not disrespectful of the history of slavery, it is an accurate word to use to describe the use of power in despotism: all citizens are slaves. you have no rights. 100% accurate: you are a slave. i am not cheapening the word or disrespecting the history of slaver

        • by plover (150551) *

          i'd rather be free and poor than a well-to-do slave

          I'd like to believe I'd think that, too, except I have never experienced poverty. Those are easy-to-say words.

          Free can mean many different things, but even in a free country there are lots of rules.

          • i am not talking free as in the teenage idiotic definition of freedom: freedom from responsibility

            i am talking free as in the adult intelligent definition of freedom: an open participant in the formation of your government and the right to speak whatever is on your mind and criticize anything and anyone you want without fear of official repercussions

            • by karuna (187401)

              You can criticize the US government without any issues in Belarus. :)

              On the other hand, wikileaks activists have a lot of trouble in the US.

              Discounting this, the US has more freedom but it still has very strict limits. I would say that Belarus people has as much freedom as China. Most people tolerate the current status in exchange of economy growth. Lukashenko will die or be forced out one day and then it is better to have country in order instead of ruins.

              • this an argument i hear a lot: "freedom better than despotism, but despotism better than chaos"

                however, much of chaos is just different ethnic groups wanting their own countries, in old world countries which are old empires fraying at the edges

                so my response to you is: perhaps the old empire should crumble in the name of freedom, rather than a strong man keeping the old empire together in the name of stability, no?

                the stability of the empire is an excuse used by the strongman. chechen bombers don't bomb mos

                • by karuna (187401)

                  Provide a better alternative if you can. In reality it is hard, very hard. The USSR was discontinued because people wanted freedom but it destroyed the economy and created widespread unemployment and poverty. Next to Belarus is my country, Latvia, and people are leaving it in droves to better European countries even though Latvians have democracy. It has failed to ensure economic prosperity and the freedom alone is not enough.

                  It is easy for those who live in rich western countries that were developed with h

                  • well said

                    i can't argue with you, as you know the subject far better than i

                    however i would simply add the example of finland: latvia can build a strong economy. if finland can, why not latvia?

                    i think you blame the economic conditions on some events that were contemporaneous, but not causative. although yes, there will be an extended social and economic hangover after emerging from the imperialist shell of ussr/ old russia. but it's like growth pangs, and being stuck between two very different social statuses

                    • by karuna (187401)

                      Of course, Latvian people want economic prosperity. They have introduced the most liberal economic policies among all western countries. We low taxes, flat tax income tax, little regulations etc. It also spectacularly failed to increase standard of living. It only created social inequality. It only benefited some companies who exploited cheap workforce for a while. In average the Belarus economy was growing at a faster rate despite having completely opposite policies.

                      It turns out the democratic countries re

                    • and i don't deny any of it. latvia just has to play that game even better. one thing they don't tell you about the evils of capitalism: nobody stays on top forever, there's always someone rising and someone falling

            • by plover (150551) *

              i am not talking free as in the teenage idiotic definition of freedom: freedom from responsibility

              i am talking free as in the adult intelligent definition of freedom: an open participant in the formation of your government and the right to speak whatever is on your mind and criticize anything and anyone you want without fear of official repercussions

              By that definition Germany is not free, because a particular political party has been officially banned. I'm not suggesting for a minute that that particular group of people should rise to power again, but it's an example of a now enlightened country learning a lesson on "freedom" the hard way, and placing limits on themselves so they don't repeat the horrific mistakes of the past. If you stand in a German town square and say that former leader should be honored and there should be a return to his prior w

              • all you are saying is that because free countries are not 100% perfectly free, they are the same as countries who deny you your freedoms

                this is an incredibly moronic way to view the world and the concept of freedom

                look: you will never be 100% free, in any society made of human beings, ever. accept that

                and so because you are at 99%, 95%, or 90% freedom on society A, does not in any way mean your society is the same as society B, that is 20% or 10% or 5% free on the scale of political expression

                your'e one of

                • by plover (150551) *

                  Wow, that was a disturbingly hate-filled diatribe, with no point at all. Are you attacking me for pointing out something like "America isn't as free as you idealistically claim it to be"? All I said originally was "there are rules" and you jumped on me as if I was burning the Stars and Stripes at a NASCAR race.

                  I'm in no way suggesting Belarus and the US are identical in terms of freedoms or restrictions placed on those freedoms. I am saying that you can't claim America is "ideologically free" when there

                  • i am attacking you for only dealing from the position of your absolute idealism, rather than from the position of relative realism

                    i know tons of people like you. all very loud, very dumb, and utterly without consequence, because the ivory tower from which you cast your judgments is not a viable or respectable perspective

                    • by plover (150551) *

                      And my original reply was that I thought your idea of "i'd rather be poor and free than a wealthy slave" was naive and sloganesque. Now I realize it was simply spoken out of ignorance.

                      Forgive me for trying to engage you in rational thought. I won't make that mistake again.

          • by karuna (187401)

            There is a saying: Poverty is the cause of all vices. This is exemplified in India which is technically democracy but the extreme poverty only creates corruption and misery. You don't have to be obscenely rich but without decent standard of living you will not be free or safe.

      • by zoom-ping (905112)

        Belarus avoided the collapse that plagued all other former Soviet republics (including Russia) by keeping its system intact and has a higher standard of living than the others because of it.

        What the fuck have you been smoking? No, I don't want any.
        They have the one of the lowest standard of living, only places like Moldova can compete. I'm from Estonia. We had our collapse and built a better system. Belarus wasn't doing that good in the 90s either, but they haven't really made any progress either. My frien

        • by karuna (187401)

          Estonia is that much better either. The standard of living is higher but not by much. GDP (PPP) of Estonia is $18,518 vs. $13,909 in Belarus.

          Estonia is that much better either. The standard of living is higher but not by much. GDP (PPP) of Estonia is $18,518 vs. $13,909 in Belarus. Besides unemployment and emigration to better European countries in Estonia is much higher.

          Of course, Belarus politically is backwards country and Lukashenko is a dictator but Belarus has considerable higher standard of living th

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I grew up in Belarus, still have family and childhood friends who live there and have followed whats been going on even though i do not live there. Let me start by saying that the stable economy you are suggesting is in some way better than Russia's is not what it seems. It is not an economy but an allowance from a much larger Russia. Until recently it has been HEAVILY reliant on Russian Oil and gas, in exchange for control and access to Europe. Lukashenka, the long standing Belarussian dictator, idoliz

        • by karuna (187401)

          I agree with you up to the point where you compare it with North Korea. It is not and you should know it. It is even better than China. Emotional feelings are not helping. It can only lead to another Bay of Pigs.

      • "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

        -- C.S. Lewis

        • lmao batka is no "omnipotent moral busybody" he just happens to be a competent head of state with a strong enough nationalist streak that he won't let the EU shit all over his country. as if a robber baron (or any person of power) thinks himself to be immoral in the first place.

          go read a narnia, fuckko

    • "the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought?
      • "the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought?

        If you view that as a Marxist ideal then you don't understand Marxism. Unfortunately most movements that were associated - generally by name only - with Marxism didn't understand actual Marxist ideals, either; which left many others with a total lack of understanding of the concept as well.

        In reality most "Marxist" movements were even further from actual Marxist ideals than the bloodiest parts of the crusades were from Christian ideals.

        • So, the No True Scotsman fallacy to the rescue! My, isn't that useful! Where would Marxist thought be without it?
  • 'Silent Protests,' in which citizens gather in city squares, and clap in protest

    I do not think that word means what you think it means...

  • And this my friends, is precisely what the anonymity on the internet is good. To protect us from the "big brother". During some speech in mid-50's (after Stalin's death), Nikita Khrushchev was criticizing stalinism. Someone from the audience said: "so why haven't you people in the Central Comitee said nothing against the abuses?". "Who said that?!" - yelled Khrushchev. Silence... "Who said that?!" - yelled Khrushchev again. Silence again... "That's why." - concluded Khrushchev.
  • There is a lot more to these protests than just the silent demonstrations. The economy collapsed after the crooked 2010 elections. Prices of basic goods saw huge increases. For example, just few weeks ago drivers were blocking busy streets with their cars in protest against 100% increase in fuel prices. More info here [libcom.org]

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