The nascent internet played a key role in defeating the military coup in Russia in 1991, writes Andrei Soldatov. However, the democratic promise of the web was never fulfilled. In the 2000s, it became a means of escape for a disaffected middle class closed out of the political process. The failed protest wave of 2011–2012 bore the mark of this ‘lost decade’. Meanwhile, in the era of political trolling, online participation has come to mean something very different.
Russian hackers were able to interfere in the US election because of public receptivity to anti-establishment messages. Investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan argue that distrust in traditional media provides fertile ground for Russian disinformation.
China: The architect of Putin’s firewall
Not content with controlling service providers and intimidating users, the Kremlin is turning to China for technology to filter Russian cyberspace. Beijing is all too willing to lend a hand.