Uzbek authorities have announced their plans to create a new state-funded social network. State media repeatedly accused Facebook, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and Mail.ru in “seduction of the youth”, and to counter these networks Uzbekistan is creating its own.
State Committee for Communication and Information has announced that the domestic social network would create a “national” content that meets the requirements of the younger generation.
“We will embed the “Electronic Academy” concept in our network to enhance the knowledge of our users,” said the press statement.
“Dangers of the social networks for young people” is one of the most popular topics in Uzbek media. They are regularly publishing articles on upbringing, TV channels shows programs about the “threats of social networks,” says Uzbek journalist Maria Sakharova.
One of the recent TV shows on Yoshlar (Youth) TV channel featured an unnamed expert from the Center for Spirituality and Enlightenment who said that “the Internet now is the weapon of the future, leaving machine guns and nuclear bombs in history … Social networks have become an instrument of foreign forces in all those “color revolutions” … They pose an immediate danger to our public policy and our sovereignty “.
“Protecting young people from the negative impacts of alien ideas and movements is an urgent task. These ideas spreads mainly through foreign social networks,” says an official Uzbek government statement from August 2014.
However, Uzbek citizens continue using foreign social networks widely. According to State Statistics Committee, the most popular network is “Odnoklassniki.ru”. There are about 8,000,000 accounts from Uzbekistan. “Mail.ru” standing next to it with 4.200.000 Uzbek accounts. World’s most popular social network Facebook is far behind them – just 360,000 users in Uzbekistan.
“This will be the fourth attempt of the Uzbek authorities to establish a national social network. Vsetut.uz was able to gain only 15,000 users; Sinfdosh.uz worked for several years and was closed. The most successful local network is Muloqot.uz with 76.0000 users. It was created by private entrepreneurs, but the state actively supports it. However, it can’t compete with foreign major networks,” says SMM-manager from Tashkent Sanjar Tukaev.
“Domestic social networks? Facebook gives me the opportunity to communicate with friends all over the world, not only in Uzbekistan. I want to be part of the world,” says Diyora Khamidova, a resident of Tashkent
Popular Uzbek IT-news website “Ilike.uz” recently published an analytical study titled “Do we need an Uzbek local social network?” According to the study, there is no market for such network and all the need on the market is well covered b international social media sites.
“Everybody understands that local social networks are just helpless projects,” says Sakharova, adding that this is just another attempt to prevent locals from accessing global social media and an attempt to put under surveillance citizens’ activities online.
According to Uzbek Internet experts, various social groups in Uzbekistan prefer different social networks.
“Odnoklassniki.ru and Mail.ru have the biggest popularity in regions of the country and among the older generation. Facebook followers are mostly youth and activists. It’s a place where all the fun islots of popular communities,” says Tudakov.
Sakharova says that Uzbek authorities are mostly concerned about their citizens using Facebook, because “Only here you can watch the open, free discussions and criticism of the authorities, people here are trying to unite and to defend their rights. Only in Facebook Uzbeks widely discuss politics, sex and other “forbidden” topics.