In Russia, a formerly repressive regime, citizens seem to have at least one new avenue of freedom that U.S. State Department officials have been trying to prop open globally: the blogosphere.
Pro-government activists are not making much noise there, according to a new study by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Researchers at the school figured this out by analyzing social networks to identify the most active Russian blogs. A key State Department priority is to uncensor the Internet in closed societies.
The Berkman Center clustered the more than 11,000 websites it found based on subject-matter patterns within posts. Pro-government bloggers were not prominent enough to constitute their own cluster, according the findings, which were released last week. Political bloggers mostly wrote from an independent standpoint or were affiliated with offline political and social movements, including the Democratic opposition and nationalist factions.
"The Russian blogosphere is a space that appears to be largely free of government control, although we are not able to confirm or deny the existence of subtle controls over Internet speech," the researchers wrote. "There are pro-government elements such as pro-Kremlin youth groups and bloggers who represent the government's point of view. However, they are not large in numbers and are not central nodes in any of the political or social clusters that we investigated."
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