The case of the Ukrainian websites that wouldn’t die

Feb 20, 2012
One Comment

The Ukrainian government shut down two websites–Ex.ua and Roadcontrol.org.ua–earlier this month, only to reopen them days later.

The first site, Ex.ua, is one of the most popular sites in Ukraine, garnering 16 to 36 percent of Internet traffic. The site was shut down amidst accusations of illegal file sharing. This explanation, however, may seem too simple.

Zerkalo Nedeli, a Ukrainian weekly, quoted a high-ranking civil servant of the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs as saying, “If the militsiya had wanted to close the black market offering pirated content, it would have done it a long time ago, along with the Petrivka market.”

Explanations for exactly why Ex.ua was closed down and reopened vary from the act being an olive branch to Washington, to a cover up of a takeover of the company, to a good-cop-bad-cop routine to catch the public’s attention.

One thing is certain though – authorities reopened the site a few days after hackers retaliated by taking down the websites of the president, the Interior Ministry, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Security Service, and the ruling Party of Region by overloading their servers. High-ranking politicians, including Nina Karpachova, member of the ruling Party of Region, and Alexander Yanukovych, son of the President, also spoke out against the shutdown.

Roadcontrol.org.ua, a site used to monitor corruption of traffic police, was similarly shutdown for a short time before being reopened by authorities. The site was closed after videos appeared online showing an officer hurling insults the Ukrainian language and harassing a driver asking for the toilet at a checkpoint. The officer in the video asked the courts to do something about the videos after he was heavily criticized in the comments. The courts then shut the site down, only to have them reopened a few days later.

Could this shutdown reversal also be a good-cop-bad-cop routine, giving the government the appearance of listening to public demands? Or are Ukrainian authorities being too hasty in their decisions to shutdown these websites?

(Image from Flickr user Mike Licht under Creative Commons)


About the Author

Hannah Almeter

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