The .Rumor Mill

Internet rumors tend to take on a particularly paranoid twist in Russia. When, in January 2005, LiveJournal suffered a serious power failure which downed the site for over 24 hours, it wasn’t long before individual RuNet users were speculating that the outage was linked to the fact that a student group calling itself Idushchiye bez Putina (Progressing without Putin) had been using ZhZh to organize a protest march, set for January 29. That rumor was picked up and promulgated, in apparent seriousness, by the website of Ekho Moskvy (“Echo of Moscow”) radio station, which reported that “The Russian authorities may be responsible for the outage of LiveJournal, the world’s most famous online diary service, which has now been down for several hours.” There it was picked up by the indexing robots of news portals, and entered the informal history of the Internet.

On the return of the service, scornful Russian ZhZh users ridiculed the story as “yet another example of sensationalizing” and an example of journalists “creating news.” But such is the unease about censorship among users of RuNet that, until the company behind ZhZh explained that a mundane power failure was actually behind the outage, the rumor was given serious currency.

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