Uzbekistan Launches Government-Run Social Networking Site on Anniversary of "Independence"

Uzbekistan, one of the world’s most repressive countries, launched its own social networking site Muloqot (“dialogue) on September 1. User access to the site will be restricted to Uzbek citizens and they will be required to provide a cell phone number in order to register.  Although the level of censorship the site will be subjected to is unclear, given the authoritarian nature of the regime, it is likely the government will monitor content and user activity. Muloqot will aim to rival Facebook, which remains the most popular social networking site in Uzbekistan with over 80,000 users.  The launch was scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s “independence.”

Uzbekistan has stepped up its internet censorship in recent months, systematically blocking websites with content critical of the regime.  A number of domestic news and other websites have been taken offline, including from neighboring countries, and most recently, Uzbekistan blocked access to the New York Times, UzNews.net and other Western media outlets. Earlier this month, Uzbekistan established a commission to monitor mass communications. Uzbekistan’s internet and press remains Not Free according to Freedom House, and president Islam Karimov has actively stifled dissent.

Freedom House is increasingly concerned with the censorship and shutdown of websites in Uzbekistan. The launch of the state-run social networking site further highlights the Uzbekistan’s government intent to control the internet and prevent open political discourse.

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