Software giant Microsoft appears to have backed the wrong side in the Kyrgyzstan Revolution.
Forbes hack Jeffrey Carr thought there was something jolly odd when the Revolution took place. There were no cyber protests and the Internet media was quiet.
After doing some digging he found that was because the administration had silenced web criticism and Microsoft had helped them do it.
Now to be fair to Redmond, Microsoft has utterly denied all this, but there are few unanswered questions about the software company’s involvement.
The government had shut down all independent journalism in Kyrgyzstan.
However Kazakhstan Internet television station called “Stan TV” which served neighbouring Kyrgyzstan was still managing to run. Agents of the State Financial Police and a representative of Microsoft arrived armed with an order from the Kyrgyzstan Prosecutor General’s office to seal all the station’s equipment. This included confiscating private laptops.
At the time this was because Microsoft’s agent made the allegation that Stan Media may be using pirated Microsoft software. Although the charge had not been proven, the station was shut down pending such time when a final determination could be made.
CPJ, a non-profit organization based in New York, told Forbes that this was becoming an oft-used tactic by regional authorities to quash dissent.
Redmond’s view is that a local lawyer who Microsoft has engaged a few times in the past but didn’t engage this time acted to protect Microsoft’s intellectual property on the authority of an organization that Redmond has no connection.
The local lawyer is Sergey Pavlovsky and he is the President of the “Association of Rights Holders of Intellectual Property Protection”, a Kyrgyz organization. As co-chair of the IT Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kyrgyz Republic he is a big wheel in the world of anti-piracy in that region.
In December, 2007 Microsoft signed an agreement with Pavlovsky’s association to represent Microsoft in matters relating to copyright infringement and the discovery of such infringement via confidential online technology.
Piracy is rampant in the former USSR countries. Since practically everyone uses pirated software, enforcement by the authorities is almost always political. The fact that Microsoft did not notice what was being done in its name was either naïve or seen as backing a brutal and repressive regime.