People’s internet: the case of Russian forest fires

Russia is not China and it is not Iran: although the freedom of speech in mass media is restricted and the media itself is rigorously controlled, Russia is officially still a democracy. This means the country cannot block the access to community websites when a problem arises, which means that the citizens will protest or take action when the government fails to.
The past few weeks Russia has experienced a severe heat wave, causing its vast forests to burn. Whole villages were annihilated and Moscow itself disappeared for days behind a heavy smoke curtain. Already in the beginning of the calamities it turned out that the authorities were not capable to protect the forests and the people adequately. So, after the first protests, the people started organizing themselves.
Online communities were created to coordinate volunteer efforts: to extinguish the fires, to help the professional fire fighters and those who have lost their homes. This movement was lead by several bloggers. Thanks to « livejournals« , popular in Russia, many Moscovites, sick of inhaling smoke, went to fight the fires themselves or started collecting money, clothing and equipment. All these efforts were coordinated through blogs, Facebook and Twitter, with detailed reports and maps.
Besides getting the situation under control this citizen initiative also has another, more long term result: proving where and how the government failed. Those responsible will have a hard time avoiding it. fires

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