The Kremlin Ate My Homework

As anyone who knows me, or who follows me here, on Twitter, or on LiveJournal (ssh!), will know, I make my writing students write blogs. I have sound reasons for doing so, both pedagogical and idealogical: blogs force students to consider their audience, create a sense of community outside the classroom, and expose weaker students to the work of excellent students. I also believe strongly that we as educators have a responsibility to expose students to the medium that is already ubiquitous and is likely to become only more and more important over the next decade.

I did not realize that we would also in a small way be carrying the flag for freedom of speech.

My students post their blogs in LiveJournal. LJ is the blog I learned to use first – when I started blogging six or seven years ago, LJ was the “cool” blogging platform. Now the cool kids are on Tumblr and the “real” bloggers are on WordPress, and when LiveJournal got “sold to the Russians” a whole lot of people jumped ship to DreamWidth, an LJ clone, or at least set up mirror blogs there. But there’s still a core group of loyal LJ users: writers, artists, members of various fandoms, interesting people. My friends are there.

I put my students there because it is dead easy to use, free, and, when I first started doing this, advertisement and spam-free. Sadly, those last things are no longer true. The ads have come in the way ads have come on almost all the social software sites these days. And the spam has grown along with a huge and mysterious user base of … Russians. Which brings me to the Kremlin.

Over the last couple of weeks, LJ has been down a lot of the time. People complained, muttered, set up DreamWidth blogs, muttered some more. And LJ announced that it was fighting denial of service attacks. And we all thought “huh – serves them right for starting those stupid games, trying to be like Facebook.” And then we heard that it was likely that the ddos attacks were coming from the Kremlin, and everyone’s attitude changed.

Apparently, LJ is not only the most popular blogging platform in Russia, it’s the only blogging platform in Russia. And it’s being used not only by a bunch of Russian teenagers writing about Twilight but by those who would speak out against the mass corruption in the Russian government.

That’s why it’s under attack.

And that’s why we need to keep using it, help keep free speech alive.

And if one of my students is late with a post? What a perfect excuse!