Saturday, October 25, 2014


Tangled Web

Editor Steps Down Over Russian Election Violations Website

With Russian parliamentary elections on December 4, an election monitor, Golos, and online newspaper, Gazeta.ru, have launched a map to track election violations. 

The map, which allows citizens to report various violations (including bribing officials and misuse of administrative resources), has nearly 5,000 submissions. 
 
The project is already causing a bit of controversy. According to lenta.ru, a deputy editor at Gazeta.ru resigned after a banner promoting the site was taken down. 
 
The Gazeta editor in chief, Mikhail Kotov, said that the map was taken down because of commercial reasons.
 
Golos, which receives funding from U.S. and European organizations, is feeling the pinch as Russia's only independent election monitor. The Associated Press reported today that prosecutors have launched an official probe with Golos "accused of publishing opinion polls after the legal deadline." 

According to "The Washington Post" Putin had already set the tone over the weekend in a speech to his ruling United Russia party:
 
He made a lacerating, if veiled, allusion to the monitor, Golos, which operates on grants from the United States and Europe.
 
“Representatives of some states are organizing meetings with those who receive money from them, the so-called grant recipients, briefing them on how to ‘work’ in order to influence the course of the election campaign in our country,” Putin said.

“As the saying goes, it’s money down the drain,” he added. “First, because Judas is not the most respected of biblical characters among our people. And, second, they would do better to use that money to redeem their national debt and stop pursuing their costly and ineffective foreign policy.”
 
It wouldn't be much of a surprise if Golos were banned from monitoring the vote on Sunday. Nor would it be a shock if the crowdmapping site is taken down by a cyberattack.

CORRECTION: In the original item, I said that the violations website was powered by the Ushahidi platform. On Twitter, Alexey Sidorenko pointed out: "Golos's violation map doesn't use Ushahidi. The idea is close but the engine was written by Golos techies." Apologies for the error and thanks, Alexey.
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Comments
     
by: Catherine Fitzpatrick from: New York
December 08, 2011 05:54
Here's what I think of this:

http://3dblogger.typepad.com/wired_state/2011/12/why-i-have-my-doubts-about-the-magic-pike-software-ushahidi-golos-used-just-like-the-kremlin.html

And I'm not buying Alexey Sidorenko's claims. Does he really mean to claim that the Golos devs never looked at the Ushahidi code, which is open source and readily available? Perhaps they reverse-engineered it?! Or perhaps they were merely "inspired" and "adapted it"? Ushahidi was the first to come up with the software and the concept and the mapping, and it's truly hard to believe that none of those solutions and none of that code is in the Golos engine.

There is of course a great critique to be made of Ushahidi and all such other projects that are written in closed societies of coders yet purporting to be open for the public and supporting open government, democracy, etc. They don't really do that.

I believe as much as Sergei Lavrov that Golos is an outside agitator. But within a different framework, of course. All code is inherently undemocratic and the entire enterprise of software production has not been democratized and liberated and awaits its occupation -- perhaps not in our lifetime.

In the mean time, we need more pairs of eyes on those bugs, hmmm? 7,000 violations? Really? 20 times more than 2007? Really? How many dupes, false firings, fakes, etc. are in a system like this? Can we ever know?

And of course the entire thing was indeed terribly vulnerable to the DDOS attack.

Question: the people recording the forest fires swore up and down that no political party supported them. Did Golos follow that same line? The story of this "taken down for commercial reasons" is rather murky. What was that actually about?

About This Blog



Written by Luke Allnutt, Tangled Web focuses on the smart ways people in closed societies are using social media, mobile phones, and the Internet to circumvent their governments and the efforts of less-than-democratic governments to control the web. 
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