FYI | VKontakte tagged as ‘Russian Facebook,’ controlled by Putin pals

Up until recently, we didn’t know much about Russian social media platform VKontakte (VK) — which can be roughly translated as “InContact.” However, when Facebook teamed up with Rappler and Vera Files for its fact-check program, a group of people who didn’t like this development announced that they were deleting their FB accounts and switching to VK.

While we can’t really tell if the exodus from FB has actually happened, we thought we’d try to get more details about VK. What we found out was very interesting.

Just like FB

VK has been tagged as “Russian Facebook.” Indeed, the two social media platforms have a lot in common — starting with the blue-and-white color scheme and most of its interface.

VK, which is said to have 100 million users, is popular in Russia and other former Soviet Union territories. But while FB founder Mark Zuckerberg is still the head honcho in his virtual kingdom, VK founder Pavel Durov is no longer connected with VK.

Controlled by cronies

In 2012, there were protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government had asked Durov to shut the VK pages of activist groups. Durov refused, saying it didn’t make sense for VK to ditch its users.

From then on, it was believed that Durov was pressured to sell his VK shares to Ivan Tavrin, the CEO of Russian mobile phone operator Megafon. Tavrin, in turn, sold them to tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who is identified as a Putin ally.

VK founder Pavel Durov resigned from VK and went on to found Telegram, whose flagship product is an increasingly popular secure chat app.

Then, finally, in 2014, Durov, as The Guardian recalls, “left the company [in April 2014] after a protracted dispute with its Kremlin-linked owners.” The title of The Verge’s take on the issue says it all: “How Putin’s cronies seized control of Russia’s Facebook.”

Durov went on to found Telegram, whose flagship product a secure chat app. He still maintains a VK account.

Comment on this post