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The Russian Internet at war
After February 24, 2022, when many Western Internet companies withdrew from Russia, and the Russian state itself outlawed other online platforms, the RuNet’s future seemed uncertain. How would Russia’s Internet market develop? Where would the authorities turn for the technology needed to pursue “digital sovereignty” and more advanced censorship tools?
More than a year later, the RuNet hasn’t collapsed, Russia’s biggest Internet tech company Yandex posted almost $136 million in profits last year, and Russia’s means of policing of online speech are more hidden from the public than ever. At the same time, Yandex is carving itself up, selling off assets and moving entire divisions abroad to stay competitive internationally. And networks like YouTube and Telegram, which host a lot of content the Kremlin hardly welcomes, are still available in Russia.
To get a sense of the current state of the Russian Internet and online free speech in Russia today, The Naked Pravda turns to Dr. Mariëlle Wijermars, a CORE fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at the University of Helsinki and the coauthor of the recent article “Digital Authoritarianism and Russia’s War Against Ukraine.” Meduza also spoke to Sarkis Darbinyan, the senior legal expert at RosKomSvoboda, an Internet watchdog that’s monitored the RuNet since the early days of the Kremlin’s coordinated online censorship.
Timestamps for this episode:
- (4:41) The Russian state’s ongoing efforts to court prominent bloggers
- (10:43) Facebook and Instagram in Russia today
- (12:28) The story behind RosKomSvoboda
- (14:26) How Russia’s Internet censors are getting smarter
- (16:58) Roles for artificial intelligence in Internet censorship
- (18:35) What Russia might block next
- (21:03) How Russian law enforcement find, flag, and prosecute illegal online speech
- (24:16) Global trends in Internet censorship
Production by Ania Kovalenko. Sound editing and mixing by Kevin Rothrock.
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