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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid