This report is the third in a series that examines public attitudes and preferences about Internet censorship and regulation in states in which media and Internet use are subject to increasing restrictions.
The role of the Internet as a fundamental tool for communication and empowerment is one that should not be inhibited as the limitless nature of the medium allows for a broader, unfiltered, and more democratic exchange of information. These features become increasingly important in conditions where the mainstream media are unwilling or unable to provide the public with the information necessary to function as democratic citizens and maintain political accountability. Though an open Internet tends to be valued by more democratic governments, the percentage of countries adhering to the standards of open and free media is dismally low. In a majority of countries, governments maintain a stringent level of control over many of the mainstream information outlets, making the Internet a vital source of alternative information for the people living within these environments.
This reflection on the report “Benchmarking Public Demand for Internet Freedom: Russia’s Appetite for Internet Control,” seeks to argue that protecting internet freedom is not possible without a shift in public opinion. Using Russian examples, Asmolov suggests that public opinion concerning internet regulation is a function of whether the online communications environment is perceived as dangerous–giving officials a chance to play an instrumental role in fostering a sense of peril online and fomenting an “internet as threat” narrative in the minds of the public.