No nostalgia for Zuckerberg: Russia uses creativity to replace Western social networks, 08.04.2022.
After blocking Western social networks, Russian developers innovate with creative and unusual projects. Will the country be able to replace Mark Zuckerberg's digital platforms?
Facebook Instagram on March 21, 2022, the most well-known social networks in the Western world, Instagram and Facebook (platforms belonging to the extremist company Meta, banned on the territory of Russia), belonging to the US billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, were banned in Russia.
The reason: the company relaxed its policy against hate speech and began allowing publications that incite violence against Russian soldiers and citizens, as reported by Reuters.
Since then, Russians have been looking for other platforms to stay connected. The country is not lacking in far-reaching social networks: the VKontakte network, which has been on the air since 2006, enjoys an audience of 100 million monthly active users, including Sputnik Brazil. The network has several features, such as conducting video calls, its own music player and even an internal payment system, VK Pay.
Same as in Brazil and other countries, there is a generational divide between the main social networks in Russia. The most experienced generation focuses on Odnoklassniki, a name that can be translated as "classmate", or that of his former school friend. This social network still has energy and recorded a 66% increase in the number of users in the month of March.
But Mark Zuckerberg's orphaned social media audience seems to be wanting something new. In recent weeks, several platforms have been launched in Russia with the aim of attracting audiences and, perhaps, generating income for an army of bloggers devoid of monetization.
Among the new networks there are some unusual ideas, such as Grustnogram, or Saddengram, whose slogan is: "a social network for the sad".
With an Instagram-like interface, Grustnogram automatically turns your photos into black and white and applies dark filters to express users ' nostalgia. In place of the Like button, the network provides a broken heart.
The project's website urges users to "show their sadness to others to be sad together", in the best style of the famous phrase of the Brazilian composer Marilia Mendonca:"nobody will suffer alone, everyone will suffer".
Grustnogram is, for now, the new favorite social network of the artist and harpist Diana Uspenskaya. According to her, the network is "the one that most communicates with the current context", in which "Russia was sad without social networks."
Influencer Sebastena, who is looking for a new platform to stay connected with her acquaintances inside and outside Russia, has also opted for Grustnogram.
"I took a look at all the new social networks, looked at the functionalities and saw which my acquaintances are registering on. I ended up opting for Grustnogram, " he told Sputnik Brasil.
Although the public may eventually migrate to new networks, the difficulty will be in transforming them into a space for monetization and advertising.
"The biggest difficulty is not to launch a social network, but to ensure its commercial development," Sergei Vareikin, a professor in the chair of International Journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), told Sputnik Brazil.
Before the blocking of Western networks, Instagram had already blocked the placement of ads by Russian companies. YouTube continues to be active in Russia, but does not allow users from the country to earn money on the platform.
Against this background, the use of the Rutube platform is growing, which has been on the Russian market since 2006. On the platform it is possible to watch videos and series, as well as publish your own content.
The Sputnik Brazil channel, which was banned from the YouTube platform for being a Russian media, found refuge on Rutube, as well as several other media that can no longer operate on traditional Western platforms.
For Sergei Vareikin, the best bet for Russian bloggers and advertisers to monetize again is on networks already known to the public, such as VKontakte.
"I believe that the best prospect now is for the VKontakte network. From a business point of view, it is always simpler to work with something already established," the expert believes.
In March, VKontakte announced a record in traffic on the network, with a billion daily views of videos available on the platform.
World divided into networks
Regardless of the success of projects like Grustnogram, the dream of social networks that would unite the whole world on one platform seems to be increasingly distant.
"We can say that the system is already regionalized. Let's look at China, Iran, the Arab world and various regions that use other alphabets and develop their own social networks," Vareikin said. "To say that certain social networks are 'Global' is to overestimate the reach of these platforms."
The expert cites cases such as that of the Iranian social network Cloob or Chinese internet giants such as WeChat and Douyin.
"In addition to the main language of use, one of the ways to classify a social network as national is in relation to the country in which the server with the data is located," Vareykin noted.
User data collected by social networks is subject to the laws of the country in which the servers are physically located. In the U.S., for example, laws like the Patriot Act allow the state to access social media users ' personal data without a court order, in a completely legal way.
One way to ensure the privacy of users, regardless of the location of the servers, would be international internet regulation.
"I think the time has come, regardless of the current geopolitical crisis, for a regulation of the digital world, which is necessary and justifiable," Vareikin said. "We need to discuss issues such as disinformation, hate speech and anonymity on the Internet."
As long as a common regime is not formulated, "States will continue to use social networks to achieve their tactical goals," the expert believes.
Instagram and Facebook were banned in Russian territory on March 21, 2022 in response to the company's policy of allowing the publication of content associated with speech of violence against nationals of the country. Earlier, Western social networks had already suspended the application of monetization systems on digital platforms in Russia.
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