I bet you can’t tell me what ‘enabling access to information’ means. To make it easier for you, I’ll give you ten attempts. Or a hundred – you still won’t get it.
I suppose I’d better tell you then. In Googlespeak, ‘enabling access’ means ‘blocking access’. Didn’t get that one, did you?
“We’re committed to enabling access to information for the benefit of our users in Russia and around the world,” declared a Google spokesman, proving my point.
A worthy commitment, one would think, but why did Google feel the need to reassure the public on that point? Well, you see, following a Russian demand, Google has agreed to delete links to websites banned in Russia.
Over 70 per cent of the links have already been deleted, and the Russian censors will be regularly updating Google on the list of sites that have incurred their displeasure.
The Russian censoring agency, Roskomnadzor, described this arrangement as establishing a “constructive dialogue” with Google. I’d call it revoltingly abject surrender to tyranny.
For the sites banned in Russia aren’t like those banned in the West. We’re not talking about child pornography here, nor illegal sales of drugs and arms, nor terrorist networks.
Putin’s kleptofascist regime bans practically all media critical of it, including on the net. Thus I regularly read Russian on-line magazines that my friends in Russia can’t read, at least not without some fancy footwork ideally aided by computer virtuosity.
Google links provided one bypass available to those Russians who aren’t satisfied with the nauseating Goebbels-style propaganda one gets through official channels. Now that bypass is no more.
Those who’ve never lived under a tyranny imposing an information famine may not appreciate the despair this outrage will cause the Russians whose views of kleptofascism differ from Peter Hitchens’s.
It’s not that they won’t be able to get real news any longer – modern technology combined with human ingenuity will probably find a way. Even back in the 60s we managed to circumvent Soviet jammers and tune in to the crackling, barely discernible voices of Western radio stations.
Technology is more sophisticated now, and the regime isn’t yet quite as oppressive as it was then, although moving in that direction. But that’s not the whole point.
People thirsting for freedom don’t just need information sustenance. They need hope – and since time immemorial that came from that semi-mythical, idealised, loving, caring demiurge: the West.
We weren’t so naïve as to believe the West would provide some tangible help. It’s just that, when we were gagged, imprisoned, committed to punitive madhouses, denied in the twentieth century the kind of liberties Englishmen enjoyed in the thirteenth, we desperately needed to know that somebody cared.
That there was a normal, human world “over the hills”, in the Russian expression, that knew of the horror we lived under and tried to help. We believed there were some people out there, whose morals and principles weren’t wholly denominated in convertible currencies.
The West did little in practical terms, but it did enough for us to know we weren’t alone in the world, face to face with the scowling beast of the worst tyranny ever known.
Those crackling voices of the Voice of America, the BBC or Radio Liberty were a lifebelt we clung on to, knowing that without it we’d drown in the engulfing sea of vomit.
Back in the early 90s Russians no longer had to rely exclusively on Western sources for their intellectual sanity. There existed in Russia some real journalistic outlets, not just on the Internet but also in the papers and even on TV.
However, as the kleptofascist regime so beloved of our ‘right-wingers’ and ‘left-wingers’ alike gathered strength, such outlets were smashed one by one. Independent TV channels were taken over, real newspapers shut down, and the Internet became the most, not to say only, reliable source of information and opinion.
That too came under attack, and all ‘liberal’ on-line publications were blocked, with but a few loopholes remaining. Now Putin’s gang has declared a war of mass annihilation against the net too.
Last week the Duma passed (I mean rubberstamped) a law allowing the government to turn off sites based on foreign servers, supposedly to counter the threat of a cyberattack.
Media watchdogs will be able to filter traffic, blocking undesirable sites at will. Effectively the Russians will follow China’s example by cutting off their Internet from the global networks, creating a ‘sovereign’ domain called RuNet.
Yes, the nineteenth century satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin wrote, “The harshness of Russian laws is softened by the slackness of their enforcement”. But then he didn’t live in Soviet or even post-Soviet Russia.
The kleptofascist regime is constantly tightening the information noose around people’s necks, and oppression is the only activity at which it excels. Now the noose will receive an extra tug from Google, that paragon of Western virtue.
There, I thought you’d like to know what ‘enabling access to information’ really means.