There should not be any doubt that this system of neo-Soviet censorship will be used against Putin’s political rivals. Consider the case of Russian parliament member Dmitry Gudkov: for criticizing Putin, Gudkov was first forced out of his party block in the legislature. Then, for visiting the United States and speaking out, he was accused of treason and threatened with imprisonment. If the Kremlin will openly attack a prominent member of the legislature in this manner, imagine how far it will go to crush an obscure microblogger.
The Kremlin is following a neo-Soviet strategy: It initially couches its restrictive provisions in terms of “protecting children from abuse” and “pursuing terrorist activity,” but the measures are always couched in language that is carefully crafted so that the law can be expanded to include any activity that undermines Putin’s authority.
To be clear: the vast majority of Russians will have no problem with Twitter’s censorship, because polling clearly showing the vast majority of Russians believe in censorship. The notion, advanced during the Cold War, that all Russians felt victimized by their totalitarian state was simply not true. There are wide, deep currents of support for repression.
And who can blame them, if the freedom-loving West won’t take the lead? If a massive organization like Twitter, one of the most powerful websites on the planet, is going to simply roll over for the Kremlin, then the Kremlin will conclude it can readily move forward. Its ultimate goal will be to block any content it disagrees with, just as was the case in Soviet times.
As such, Twitter’s conduct is reprehensible. If Russians who do oppose the regime cannot look to American organizations for support, it’s inevitable that they will lose hope and stop resisting as Putin seeks to create a neo-Soviet dictatorship.
Such resistance is important to Americans, not just Russian citizens. As Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute has recently shown, Putin is not just seeking to recreate a Soviet state on the domestic front; his foreign policy is just as determined to reestablish the Soviet empire. Russia’s foreign policy interests are diametrically opposed to those of the U.S.: Putin wants high oil prices, so he wants instability in the Middle East; we want low prices and stable democracies. If Putin wins total control over his domestic front, he will be free to turn all his energies to supporting rogue regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
It’s also important simply for moral reasons. America is the world’s great beacon of hope, the one nation that can be trusted to stand up for freedom and liberty even in the darkest hours. An online petition has been created to pressure Twitter — sign it, and let Twitter know that enabling an anti-American dictatorship is not acceptable.