OSU Researchers Study How Russian Government Rallies Pro-Censorship Sentiment Among Citizens

Researchers analyzing a survey of Russian citizens found that those who relied more on Russian national television news perceived the internet as a greater threat to their country than did others. This in turn led to increased support for online political censorship. These viewers were more likely to agree that the internet was used by foreign countries against Russia and that it was a threat to political stability within the country. Not surprisingly, those who saw the internet as a threat were also more likely to support online censorship.

Approval of the government of President Vladimir Putin amplified the impact of those threat perceptions on support for censorship, according to the study. Support for Vladimir Putin significantly strengthened the relationship between seeing the internet as a risk and supporting online censorship, the study found.

Researchers noted that the Russian regime uses its official news outlets, particularly television, to spread fear about anti-government sites. The regime often uses graphic metaphors to sensationalize the risk of some internet content, according to the researchers.

For example, the government has compared some websites it opposes to suicide bombers and tells citizens its response would be to use internet control and censorship to create a “bulletproof vest for the Russian society” said the researchers.

Researchers noted while it isn’t difficult to circumvent government censorship methods in a technical regard, but it can be very difficult to get around a well established mind-set that “censorship is good.”