News / Europe

Internet Opens Russia for Democracy Movement

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Russia’s protest movement grew and got organized with speed that startled many in the political establishment. Russia’s uncensored Internet allows people to communicate, coordinate and raise money for rallies, all through their computers.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is running for president in elections March 4. His campaign website photos show him skiing, skating and fighting in a judo match.

But on the Internet, one satire rips off the latest Sasha Baron Cohen’s comedy, The Dictator. It has Russia’s leader winning a running presidential race by shooting his opponents with a starting pistol.

Or in this takeoff on the film Titanic, he and Boris Gryzlov, former speaker of Duma are heading toward a massive iceberg.

In another video, psychiatrists in white coats dance in a chorus line singing, Our Madhouse Vote for Putin. Watched by over one-million people, it won a recent YouTube music-video contest in Russia.

Online videos like these are shaping the generation that protests Putin's plan to rule Russia for another decade. With 50 million Russians now online, many Russians have stopped watching news programs on state-controlled TV.

Sam Greene, an American political scientist in Moscow, said Russia's Internet is forcing TV news coverage to change, or die.

"They then had to cover the December 24 as an anti-Putin protest," said Greene. "That has not been on television ever. And it was the combination of the fact that the Internet would have put the information out there, and did put that information out there. And there were 80, 100, 120,000 people on the streets, which is hard to miss. That forced television into this corner."

In cyberspace, Putin's backers counterattacked with his interactive campaign website. But, once again, his opponents proved to be quicker on the web.

They immediately posted suggestions. "Please leave politics. It is obvious that power is a narcotic," read one from Andrei Antonenko.

Anti-Putin comments like Antonenko's immediately rose to the top of the online ranking. Campaign workers took them down, but screen grabs had already gone viral.

"They should have seen it coming," says Greene, who also directs a New Media program in the Russian capital. "They did not."

Oddly, Putin's party, United Russia, appears nowhere on his campaign website. That is because Internet blogger Alexey Navalny ruined the party brand by saddling it online with an unshakeable label, "the party of swindlers and thieves."

While Russia's government loses the Internet information war, the opposition now uses the Internet to raise money for rallies. Alexei Kozlov, for example, raised $130,000 in online contributions from about 5,000 contributors. He says Yandex Money, the payment system, limits payments to $500, which means no one can charge that one or two oligarchs are bankrolling the protests.

Also, Yandex Money only works inside Russia. He says no one can accuse the movement of being funded by the United States.

Finally, the opposition uses Facebook and other social network sites to inform people about protests. Two weeks before a mass march is to go through central Moscow, the city has no political graffiti, and no political posters. But if protest planners hit their targets, the February 4 march will be another Internet-driven flash mob of 100,000 people.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs