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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs