[LINK] Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Mon Sep 13 18:52:36 EST 2010


> Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

> IRKUTSK, Russia — It was late one afternoon in January when a squad  
> of plainclothes police officers arrived at the headquarters of a  
> prominent environmental group here. They brushed past the staff with  
> barely a word and instead set upon the computers before carting them  
> away. Taken were files that chronicled a generation’s worth of  
> efforts to protect the Siberian wilderness.

>  The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, was organizing protests  
> against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a  
> paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal, a natural wonder  
> that by some estimates holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
> Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest  
> tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the  
> pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software.

>  Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of  
> similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition  
> newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries  
> reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in  
> Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy  
> groups or news organizations that back the government.
> As the ploy grows common, the authorities are receiving key  
> assistance from an unexpected partner: Microsoft itself. In  
> politically tinged inquiries across Russia, lawyers retained by  
> Microsoft have staunchly backed the police

>  Interviews and a review of law enforcement documents show that in  
> recent cases, Microsoft lawyers made statements describing the  
> company as a victim and arguing that criminal charges should be  
> pursued.
> The lawyers rebuffed pleas by accused journalists and advocacy  
> groups, including Baikal Wave, to refrain from working with the  
> authorities. Baikal Wave, in fact, said it had purchased and  
> installed legal Microsoft software specifically to deny the  
> authorities an excuse to raid them. The group later asked Microsoft  
> for help in fending off the police. “Microsoft did not want to help  
> us, which would have been the right thing to do,” said Marina  
> Rikhvanova, a Baikal Environmental Wave co-chairwoman and one of  
> Russia’s best-known environmentalists. “They said these issues had  
> to be handled by the security services.”

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
T: +61 2 61402408  M: +61 404072753
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
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