Anonymous policy: the government to create competitors to regional Telegram crypto channels

The government is preparing its ‘’crypto bloggers’’ in the popular messenger, but the administrators themselves doubt about their success

This week there has appeared the information about the plans to create a network of government anonymous Telegram channels by the presidential election in 2018. The number of such resources is close to a hundred. Anonymous channels already exist in the regions, although it is difficult to call them pro-government. Realnoe Vremya asked experts and authors of Telegram channels why anonymous resources about politics are so popular, how they influence public opinion and whether there are chances of government crypto channels to tip the scales in their favour.

Anonymous hundred

About a hundred anonymous Telegram political channels controlled by the government will be launched in a number of Russian regions. Four or five resources account for each region. Their theme will be set by the administration of the Russian President, reports RBC with reference to own sources. The work of the network will be connected with the presidential election in 2018

According to the edition, journalists working in regional media as well as officers of the press services of the regional government will create and maintain the telegram channels. Filling anonymous resources will be included in their job duties.

RBC published the list of 14 regions where government telegram channels are to be launched. There is no Tatarstan among these regions, but it is noted that the list has not been fully formed yet.

The information about the detention of the head of housing and communal services department of Executive Committee of Zelenodolsk Oleg Anisimov, Deputy Head of Kazan Executive Committee Ivan Kuznetsov (on the photo) was leaked in telegram channels shortly before the appearance of official confirmation. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Popularity in the wake of bank collapses

Historically, the first crypto channel in Tatarstan was Neudascha. It appeared during the protests of the housing equity holders of Tatfondbank and Intekhbank in the late 2016 — early 2017. That time most of the victims communicated in telegram chats having more than a thousand participants, so that it was not difficult to get the first hundred subscribers.

In recent months, the audience of Neudascha has increased dramatically, and now it has more than 11,000 subscribers. The authors of the channel explain this situation by bot attacks, which were designed to knock out the channel from different channel ratings.

In neighbouring Bashkortostan, the telegram channel Usy Khamitova (literally – ''Khamitov's Mustache'') named in honour of the head of the region and sharply criticizing him personally and regional authorities at various levels has a certain popularity

''A sense of belonging to the secrets is formed through telegram channels''

Political strategist Pyotr Bystrov believes that telegram channels are only the wrapped in a high-tech ''wrap'' old practice of deliberate spread of rumours.

''The election campaigns and politics in general have always used a tool like rumours. When the trees were green and the elections were competitive, they hired special people who, for example, when using a public transport or going to the central market loudly discussed political problems. It seems to me that the telegram channels are performing the same role. Just the process has been simplified and technologized.''

According to Bystrov, behind regional telegram channels, as a rule, there stand particular groups of local elites. Whether the new government telegram channels will be able to compete with the already existing resources depends exclusively on professionalism of those particular people who will be responsible for that, believes the expert.

Abbas Gallyamov: ''Since it is not accepted in Russia to believe official information, people get used to look for unofficial information.'' Photo:

''Telegram channels, of course, do not have significant impact on public sentiments,'' said political analyst Abbas Gallyamov. ''They will not affect the results of the elections either. However, they also can fray the nerves of some politicians.''

Actually, this is the only purpose of existence of most of them.

Bystrov also notes that telegram channels are ''not an electoral tool'' as the number of subscribers in such resources is much smaller than of the channels and pages in social networks. He associated the popularity of the channels with their low cost — for the most part, money is spent only on the authors of the content.

''The secret of the interest in telegram channels is connected with their anonymity,'' believes Gallyamov. ''Since it is not accepted in Russia to believe official information, people get used to look for unofficial one. Those who can directly communicate with bearers of political secrets are not many today. For others, a sense of belonging to the secrets is formed through telegram channels.''

''The information field is Russia is filled in with concrete''

The authors of anonymous crypto channels have a different point of view on their activity and the reasons for the popularity. Although from their statements it follows that the decisive factor is anonymity and accessibility, the channels themselves are connected with a struggle of various groups of elites.

''The problem is that in Russia the information field is filled in with concrete,'' said the authors of the channel Shaltay-Babay to Realnoe Vremya, who, of course, asked to remain anonymous. ''It becomes dangerous to write about politics openly: one can be jailed for reposts in social networks. But the part of thinking people need unbiased analysis of political processes in the country. Not so much fundamental analysis, considering wide cause-and-effect ties, as ''the secrets of the power household''. Everyone understands that in our country the main political decisions are made taking into account some changes, bureaucratic unions on the top. Nobody will write about it openly — it is dangerous. Another convenience is that these intragovernmental groups are leaking information against their competitors themselves on the condition of anonymity. We don't know who they are, they don't know who we are. It is very convenient.

The authors of the channel Shaltay-Babay: ''It becomes dangerous to write about politics openly: one can be jailed for reposts in social networks. But the part of thinking people need unbiased analysis of political processes in the country''

According to the authors of the channel Apparatnaya, the telegram channels have a strong influence on regional politics as their subscribers are representatives of regional elites. The same opinion about the audience of the telegram channels was expressed by analyst Bystrov.

According to the authors of Shaltay-Baltay, the idea of creating a network of government channels is doomed to failure. Apparatnaya channel believes that for the specialists from the government in any case it will be useful to study the industry of anonymous channels.

By Aleksandr Artemyev