THE GLOBE AND MAIL - July 12 - Pavel Durov, of Russia's popular social media network, VKontakte, stands up to Federal Security Service, or FSB, requests to shut down the page of political activist Alexei Navalny and turn over personal data on Ukrainian users. Rather than take part in what he calls “political censorship,” the 29-year-old Durov posted the FBS letters to his VK page, stepped down as CEO, and fled the country.
Mr. Durov and VK have been in the center of Russia's struggle between social media's freedom of expression and the corporations and government trying to control it, since late 2011 when VK pages gave young Russians a place to vent their political frustrations following Putin's return to power. At that time, Durov refused to block the profiles of protest groups prompting Russia to pass Internet laws that would make it harder for him to say no in the future.
Growing weary of all the political and corporate pressure on the company due to Russia's growing battle over the future of Ukraine, and an ongoing struggle over ownership of VK, Durov chose to take on the role of a political fugitive forced to leave Russia. In the wake of his departure, Russian lawmakers continue to pass laws that place restrictions on the Internet.