Direct Line Blog

Back in the U.S.S.R.

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Back in the U.S.S.R.
Soviet-style censorship returns to Russia. (Map: wisegeek.com)

Ah, you just can't keep a good totalitarian state down. Vladimir Putin's mad grab for the Ukraine and his undisguised lust for Azerbaijan, the Baltic States, and Kazakhstan suggests that Stalin's, not Gorbachev's, portrait hangs in his drawing room. He may not bring back the Hammer and Sickle (though the new flag does look too much like France's), but it's clear he wants to reinstate some of the cultural nuances, as well as the geography, of the Soviet era. And let's face it, how can that be accomplished without some good old-fashioned Bolshevik censorship?

The Russian parliament recently passed a bill that would require digital communications networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google's Gmail, and Microsoft's Skype to locate servers within Russia to service their Russian traffic. An amendment to the nation's anti-terrorism laws, the “Information, Information Technologies, and Protection of Information” law (too much information?) would give Russian security and intelligence operations complete access to the networks' Russian data. Putin's old KGB pals will know exactly whom the Ukraine girls will be knocking out and what the Moscow girls will sing and shout. They'll also know what capitalistic entreaties the imperialist American industrial complex is emailing to its citizens.

At press time, the legislation was still awaiting Putin's signature, but word is that it could go into effect by the end of this year. Google, Microsoft, and others are likely to acquiesce to the Russian Bear's demands rather than surrender access to largest country in the world, which is also a digital gateway to China.

As for emailers with global business profiles, the new order in Russia might mean nothing more than another exercise in deliverability. “Their emails will be subject to Russia's scrutiny and their filtering,” says Bob Sybydlo, Yesmail's director of market intelligence and deliverability. “We'll do the usual deliverability reporting. We'll probably start seeing patterns in rejections and identify buzzwords that trigger them.”

Our suggestions for a few subject lines to avoid: “Putin Models Our Fall Dress Line;” “FREE in UKRAINE;” and “We're Having a Pussy Riot!”  Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if Facebook or Google or Microsoft avoid complying with the new law. Google, after all, shut down its search engine in China because of that country's censorship of results. LinkedIn, on the other hand, recently announced it would enter the Middle Kingdom after recruiting Google China veteran Derek Shen to lead its effort there.

As for me, someone who pines for the simple times of the 1970s, when good was good and the Soviet Union was evil, I appreciate Russia's return as the bad guy of international affairs. Its filling of that role provides the counterpoint that reminds us how good we have things back in the U.S A. They're back. We don't know how lucky we are.

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