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Summary:

Russia’s answer to Mark Zuckerberg either has a very weird sense of humor, or he is genuinely preparing to fight censorship of the platform he founded until the bitter end.

Pavel Durov

Thought the strange saga of Pavel Durov, the head of Russian Facebook rival VKontakte, wasn’t already weird enough? You’ll enjoy this then: having resigned on Tuesday, following pressure from his new pro-Kremlin overlords, the free-speech advocate has rescinded his resignation.

On Thursday, two days after the 1 April resignation – which was confirmed by the company – Durov made two new posts on VK. The first, accompanied by a picture of a doge, cryptically congratulated those on “the last holiday” who thought he had voluntarily resigned. But, for those who thought this was just an April Fool’s Day prank, the next post continued (via Google Translate):

“In recent days, I was able to learn a lot about what might happen to VKontakte after my departure. And clearly saw that my resignation at this difficult time would have been a betrayal of all that we defended the last 7 years. It would be very easy and very destructive way. Thanks to everyone who supported me on April 1. Choice of dates I tried to hint that the decision to leave was not final and it was necessary to gather information. I’m not going anywhere — and remain CEO VKontakte.”

Durov’s resignation post suggested that his freedom as CEO was becoming increasingly constricted – oligarchs had gradually bought up the company, which used to strongly resist pressure from Putin’s regime, and the outlook was decidedly more censorship-friendly.

So perhaps Durov intends to stand his ground and fight until the bitter end – “He will not voluntarily give up,” a source close to the company told TechCrunch. Or perhaps Durov is a highly capricious lover of stunts. This is after all the same multi-millionaire who once threw paper planes made out of money out of his office window as an “experiment”, causing a violent brawl on the street below, and who offered NSA leaker Edward Snowden a job in his data protection team.

As for the next instalment in this odd story, anything’s possible. I’ve asked VK to confirm that he actually still is the CEO.

  1. who would take any announcement on April 1st as legitimate?

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    1. Believe me, every story that day got extra levels of suspicion. But when the company itself confirms the resignation of its CEO, things are a step beyond.

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