Senior Russian investigations official warns of dangers posed by social media

Vladimir Markin file photo

(Interfax – Anapa, May 15, 2013) Destructive forces, including foreign ones, use the absence of controls over on-line publications for information wars aimed at undermining people’s trust in the country’s leadership and law-enforcement bodies, official Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin has said.

“Today, social networks and major blog services comprise hundreds of thousands of independent users who are subjected to minimal and often a complete lack of censorship, and are becoming ever-more influential,” he said in Anapa on Wednesday (15 May) at an all-Russia seminar of spokespeople of Investigations Committee regional branches.

In his words, “the opinion of the blogosphere is having a growing influence over the most serious political, economic, social processes and it is only expected to grow in the future”.

“There are information wars being waged here aimed at undermining people’s trust in the state, including its law-enforcement bodies first and foremost,” he said.

He noted that in some cases, this concerns “well though-out information war campaigns, which some oligarchs and foreign centres are waging against our state”.

“So despite the views of some of our regional heads about the social media presence of law-enforcement bodies, we cannot fail to respond to the challenges presented by contemporary society and stick our heads in the sand,” he said.

“And was have to be very serious and professional in our choices of the way we work. My appearance on Twitter drew a vigorous public reaction but even anti-system bloggers, who describe the Investigations Committee as ‘the main institution of political repression in today’s Russia’, said then that the Investigations Committee ‘got dressed up as an ordinary human being,” he said.

He added that this was the very purpose of a social media presence, “this is another opportunity to become closer to society, to be more open”.

“Besides a Twitter account, we have official Investigations Committee groups on Facebook and VKontakte, where the Committee’s key news are broadcast in a timely manner. This practice has proven its effectiveness, as this lets us embrace a new set of audiences who do not watch TV or read the papers, but who get their news from blogs,” he said.

“I am not talking about that part of the internet audience that is best ignored – the so-called ‘trolls’, anti-system ‘rights activists’, simply misanthropic bloggers. But there is a part of the internet community audience – not its largest part – that strongly warrants our attention,” Markin said.

In his words, this embraces people who use forums, blogs, social networks “for active volunteer work on upholding law and order, protecting cultural and natural heritage sites, protecting children and particularly orphans”.

“Basically, these are like-minded volunteers, who act on their own initiative,” he said.