In advance of this Sunday’s Russian presidential election, the Berkman Center is pleased to announce the release of a paper that summarizes the major findings for our three-year project investigating the Internet’s impact on Russian politics, media and society:
The paper assesses the relationship between Russian cyberspace and Russian political and social life. This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
This paper summarizes the major findings of three-year research project to investigate the Internet’s impact on Russian politics, media and society. We employed multiple methods to study online activity: the mapping and study of the structure, communities and content of the blogosphere; an analogous mapping and study of Twitter; content analysis of different media sources using automated and human-based evaluation approaches; and a survey of bloggers; augmented by infra- structure mapping, interviews and background research. We find the emergence of a vibrant and diverse networked public sphere that constitutes an independent alternative to the more tightly controlled offline media and political space, as well as the growing use of digital platforms in social mobilization and civic action. Despite various indirect efforts to shape cyberspace into an environment that is friendlier towards the government, we find that the Russian Internet remains generally open and free, although the current degree of Internet freedom is in no way a prediction of the future of this contested space.