Last month, we got some good news on the anti-censorship front, as major tech companies stood up to Russian censorship of an upcoming protest. Now we have some bad news. Intel has shut down Russian developer blogs in accordance with Russia’s controversial blogger law that was passed last year. The law puts strict regulations on any blog that has at least 3000 unique visitors a week, and requires them to register with an oversight body, Roskomnadzor, which regulates the media in Russia.
On the Intel page regarding the blogging law, it states that as of January 1, 2015, Intel shut down all blog posts, forum posts, and comments on the Russian Intel Developer Zone. It further states, that this will have no effect on the English Intel Developer Zone, and people in Russia can in fact still have developer blogs if they don’t mind using the English language. This also means that developers around the world will be affected by this change if Russian is their native language, regardless of where they live.
Intel also links to some third-party sites where Russian developer can continue to interact with Intel, including the Russian blogging site Habrahabr, and the Russian social networking site VKontakte. Intel maintains a blog on Habrahabr that it has not shut down as of yet. Using these other sites developers might maintain the community that had grown in the Russian Developer Zone.
While free speech advocates may be disappointed in Intel for caving to Russia’s demands, they made a calculated decision and did what they thought was best for their business. Whether it actually was the right decision for Intel’s business remains to be seen. Refusal to comply with the blogging law could results in heavy fines, and Russia has shows it is not afraid to block content that it finds objectionable. This may simply be one fight Intel has no interest in fighting.
As the Russian government clamps down further on free speech it should be mindful of unintended consequences of its actions. Human capital flight is an economic term that refers to the immigration of educated and skilled workers to countries with better conditions. This is something the Soviet Union had to deal with, and the iron curtain was its solution to keep skilled workers from fleeing the country. If Russia clamps down on developer blogs it is in danger of seriously harming its own tech industry if developers are unable to share ideas, and communicate effectively. In a worse case scenario they may simply leave the country.
Do you think of Intel made the right decision to shut down developer blogs and forums? Do you think Russia’s censorship of blogs may backfire on it in the future? Tell us in the comments below!