Yandex against the bloggers?

posted 26 Oct 2015, 02:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Oct 2015, 02:12 ]
20 October 2015 


Source: HRO.org

Original source: Radio Svoboda 
A petition posted by a Russian user on ‘return the blog archives search’ is now running on the website Change.org. The Yandex company deliberately limited the results of the ‘blog search’. This concerns above all the Russian-speaking community of LiveJournal, which has existed since 2001.

Recently it has been impossible to find material older than two months with the search service. The signatories of the petition claim that the decision has made a significant mass of information basically inaccessible for users. And LiveJournal had always won out in comparison compared with, for example, Facebook exactly because its posts on it were easily accessible after any amount of time.

This is not the first year that the blogosphere has been subjected to restrictions by Yandex. A few years ago the ratings and top-blog news were taken away. At the beginning of summer this year the link to 'search blogs' disappeared on all pages of Yandex. Users nonetheless found the service by accessing the address www.blogs.yandex.ru directly. Subsequently the link was returned to all other services.

However, as it turned out, not the archives.

For a long time Yandex’s “Blog search” was the most effective and easy-to-use instrument for searching for information in the Russian-speaking blogosphere. I put forward a short example for illustration:

Over the last nine years or so I have written about the unjust criminal investigation into the former Yukos employee Aleksei Pichugin. My blog on LiveJournal contains a chronicle of his legal case, beginning in 2006. Not long ago any one of these posts could have been easily found with the help of Yandex's 'Blog search’. Now the same tool gives only two pages of results for the question 'Aleksei Pichugin', although in reality much more material has been published in recent years. But Yandex doesn't inform that older (and probably no less important) posts exist.

Yandex explains these restrictions by arguing that “the vast majority of users are looking for something more recent, they access the archives extremely rarely.” This statement seems questionable to me. In my opinion, it is exactly this ‘old’ information that is in need of reinforcement and clarification more often, due to the limitations of human memory. And the value of the blogosphere, as the authors of the statement on Change.org rightly note, is that it consists not just of new information and reactions to news, but also archived posts. In our century of information technology if you are not mentioned in the media space, then, in effect, you don’t exist.

In mid-summer of this year, Yandex, in response to the law on ‘the right to be forgotten’ passed by the State Duma, claimed: “We are deeply convinced that the search for information and access to it are basic and essential human rights, they are entrenched in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution.”

But, in my opinion, this law that has been criticised by Yandex allows Russian citizens to request the deletion of links to false and irrelevant information about themselves that are several years old. Meanwhile the ‘blog search’ archive’s limit to two months is incomparably less than the limits established by law on the right to be forgotten.

Yandex justifies its actions by the fact that in the ‘big search’, as before, all posts are indexed without any limits to the time frame. But it seems to me that it is significantly less easy to use for bloggers. My experience shows that you will often not find what you mean if the exact phrase is not put in the question. It should also be noted that a result a significant part of the results of the ‘big search’ are replicas of each other.

Another way out of the situation is the advanced search engine on Google. For example, in comparison to the current limited ‘blog search’ on Yandex, a search with this tool with the same key words ‘Aleksei Pichugin’ gives more than 10 pages of results for the website www.sivilia-1.livejournal.com.

But, alas, Google, in contrast to the Yandex search, does not index the comments - if the keywords are in the post's comments, then it will probably not appear in the results.

I’m not a lover of conspiracy theories. But I can’t help but note that the famous motto “In Yandex you’ll find everything!” now only at a stretch corresponds to reality. It seems that the limited depth of search to only new posts could become an elegant way to fight freedom of speech in the Russian blogosphere.

Vera Vasilieva is a correspondent for HRO.org, author of the book “The Trial of Aleksei Pichugin”, “The third case of Aleksei Pichugin: chronicle of the Yukos case”, “Without witnesses? The case of Nevzlin: notes of a witness in absentia”, “Aleksei Pichugin – roads and crossroads”

Translated by Jo Anston
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