Dr. Erik Nisbet, associate professor of communication, political science, and environmental policy at Ohio State University, responds to questions drawn from the recently released report “Benchmarking Public Demand: Russia’s Appetite for Internet Control,” which seeks to assess the public’s demand for internet freedom in Russia.
What was the most surprising part of the dataset?
The findings from the survey analysis that surprised me the most were Russian attitudes about the use of the Internet by foreign countries and the censorship of foreign media. There is a robust sentiment among Russians (roughly half of non- and light users of the Internet and about one-third of heavy Internet users) that foreign countries are actively using the Internet against Russia and that foreign news media websites should be censored by the Russian government. These attitudes are reflective of the political messaging by the Russian government, but I was surprised that they had found such wide-spread acceptance among the population. Building support among the public to censor foreign mass media and websites is an important part of a much larger information control strategy by the Russian government, as is also the recent legislation limiting foreign ownership of mass media in Russia, to isolate the Russian public from outside information that may be inconsistent with the government’s dominance of news and information dissemination within Russia.
How do Russian attitudes towards internet governance differ from some other places where you’ve done work?
Unfortunately, the demand for democratic governance in Russia is very…