Social media vs voter fraud in Russia

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin waves after casting his ballot at a polling station during the parliamentary election in the capital Moscow December 4, 2011. Putin’s ruling party could see its vast parliamentary majority cut back on Sunday in elections widely seen as a test of his popularity ahead of an expected return to the presidency early next year. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor (RUSSIA – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Even Vladimir Putin isn’t immune to the power of social media. We’ve seen how social media has fueled revolutions across the Middle East in the Arab Spring, and now Russian citizens are getting into the act. An independent election observer in Russia witnessed blatant voter fraud. He captured video on his phone and then uploaded it for all to see.

Mr. Duda raced home and uploaded the clip to YouTube. Though just three minutes long, it quickly became an election-day sensation, helping fuel a major demonstration of as many as 5,000 people on Monday evening in central Moscow. They chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief.” Several hundred were arrested, including two major opposition leaders.

Valentin Gorbunov, the head of the Moscow City Elections Commission, confirmed the substance of the video and announced that Russian investigators had opened a case into ballot tampering by the head at Polling Place No. 2501, where the episode occurred, Russian news agencies reported Monday.

It’s stunning to see how oppressive regimes are losing their grip on the public. The key to power is controlling information, and in the past, control of TV and newspapers was the primary tool. But it today’s bottom-up world, that control is impossible with social media and the Internet. But it’s impossible to have a modern economy without an open web, so hence the dilemma for thugs like Putin. It also presents some risks but also huge opportunities for foreign policy goals in the United States.

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