A documentary aired on Uzbek state television last night compared users of Facebook and other social networks to terrorists, according to a report from AFP. "What's the difference between a terrorist and a page or blog owner who posts nude images?" asked an "expert" from a pro-government think tank. "If terrorists kill people using guns and bombs, these Internet users will eventually kill you using 'sweet words'."
While the comments are obviously hyperbolic, they do not bode well for the roughly 130,000 Uzbeks who use Facebook, or those with profiles on the Russian site Odnoklassniki. Another expert interviewed for the documentary seemed to advocate a social network witch hunt, warning that "[t]hese could be our relatives, keen Facebook users ... which means that danger is not far from each of us."
Uzbekistan has an extremely poor record on internet freedom. According to the US State Department, "[t]he government blocks access to websites of opposition parties based outside of the country, independent media, and others critical of official government policy."
Uzbeks seeking state-approved social networks can access either Muloqot.uz or Sinfdosh.uz, but both sites lack users — Muloqot.uz reportedly hosts around 22,000 profiles. The makers of the documentary appear to be aware of the limitations, admitting that the home-grown sites lack "attractiveness, interactivity, news and information."