Category Archives: Uncategorized

Telegram Ban and Internet Freedom in Russia

I did an in-depth interview with Slate‘s Future Tense about the banning of Telegram messenger in Russia and the ensuing chaos after state censors blocked millions of IP-addresses in an attempt to prevent Telegram’s circumvention of the ban, severely damaging the RuNet’s health in the process. I discuss the messenger’s role in Russians’ online lives and the broader implications of the Kremlin’s crackdown on encrypted communications:

This decision banning Telegram is also threatening other similar platforms that protect communications with end-to-end encryption. We’re talking about Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and potentially any other encrypted communication services. All of those could also be banned in Russia using the same principles. Telegram sets a precedent here.

And if that were the case, then that really narrows down the space for private and secure communications. If you aren’t sure that your communications are encrypted, or whether the encryption keys have been shared, that basically means there is very little space for privacy and security for Russian users on the internet. That’s ultimately the danger: It’s not just one platform, it’s the whole principle of encrypted communication that’s under threat.

Read the whole interview here!

 

 

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New article in Information, Communication & Society

I’ve got a new article out in the AoIR 2017 special issue of Information, Communication & Society.

My article, #IAmNotAfraidToSayIt: stories of sexual violence as everyday political speech on Facebook, focuses on how affective networked publics on Facebook can support feminist activism through the medium of narratives about bodies and gendered power dynamics (if you’d like a free eprint, use this link – I’ll also upload an Accepted draft version to this website soon).

The special issue, titled Networked (in)justice and edited by Alison Harvey and Koen Leurs, features some of research presented at the AoIR 2017 Networked Publics conference in Tartu, Estonia. As the editors say,

This special issue is pleased to share the emphasis on the diverging and contradictory consequences of the formation of networked publics. We have chosen to focus in particular on studies of publics that scrutinize how they may exacerbate injustices or work towards social justice.

We propose a focus on networked (in)justice drawing attention to:

How mainstream scholarly conceptualizations of publics and platforms prioritize some networked publics and marginalize others

How networked publics are shaped as an assemblage of hardware, design, algorithms, discourse, bodies, collectives, and affect

How networked publics reflect and shape intersecting power relations of geography, gender, race, and sexuality, among others

How networked publics are distinctively local, but simultaneously shaped by transnational and global dynamics.

The special issue in its entirety is available here.

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New Book Review Up!

My review of Ellen Mickiewicz’ excellent book No Illusions: The Voices of Russia’s Future Leaders for Digital Icons is up on the DI website. The book offers a very valuable, in-depth and intimate look into the lives of Russia’s young elites amid the political, social and cultural turmoil in the country and in the world. Mickiewicz is one of the top Russian scholars, and the book is yet more evidence of her expertise.

The spring and summer of 2017 saw a new wave of protests in Russia. Compared to the 2012 discontent, these protests had a broader set of claims and a greater reach, with over 100 cities joining Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Observers have also noted the visible and vocal presence of younger Russians, including students and school pupils. Although they were not a majority, these youths appeared on front-pages and in interviews, becoming the face of the dissent. Should we be surprised? Do we know what the young Russians are doing and saying in the space between social networks and city streets?

Read more of my thoughts and critiques of the book’s contribution here!

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New article on public networked discourses in the Ukraine-Russia conflict

My new article ‘Public Networked Discourses in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict: ‘Patriotic Hackers’ and Digital Populism’ for Irish Studies in International Affairs has been published online and is now available on JSTOR. This article is based on a paper I presented at the annual conference of the International Affairs Standing Committee of the Royal Irish Academy, titled ‘Retreat from Globalisation? Brexit, Trump and the New Populism’, which took place at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin on 31 May 2017.

The study explores the self-presentation and online discursive practices of grassroots hacker collectives on both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict within a larger geopolitical climate of a contested globalisation agenda and a growing fear of cyber warfare. Both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian hacker groups engage in DDoS attacks, malware distribution and leaking stolen information from the opposing side. They also use social media to enter the broader political discourse around the conflict. The article analyses the Twitter posts of both collectives to reveal key modes of online practices and key discursive themes in the context of the conflict, such as political activism, information warfare, hacker ethics and patriotism. The study elucidates how these groups use their social media presence to construct a ‘patriotic hacker’ identity for themselves, to delegitimise their opponents and ultimately, to connect to the broader populist discourse, where issues of patriotism, sovereignty and nationhood are contested.

Read the whole article here.

 

 

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BBC Radio 4 Doc on Protests

I recently contributed to Long Road to Change, a great BBC Radio 4 documentary on the history of protests questioning the role of technology and other factors in how dissent might bring about change. Check out the whole piece, featuring many thoughtful voices, on the BBC website here.

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Visible Protests in the Hybrid Media Era: Social Media, Live Streaming and Witnessing

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I’ve got a new blog post up on the FuJoMedia website, where I reflect on this Sunday’s anti-corruption protests in Russia and consider the risks and benefits of live streaming and networked social media for protest visibility.

How do protestors make themselves visible? One could argue that the whole point of a protest – a public, uncomfortable act of dissent often exemplified by occupying space and blocking streets – is to capture people’s (and governments’) attention to the point where they cannot look away. The difficulty, of course, comes when protest events and actions are mediated by mainstream news outlets who decide which frame to apply to the protests and which parts and angles of them to make visible – or invisible – to their audience. Not an ideal setup.

But in the hybrid media system, where according to Chadwick, old and new media co-exist and entangle with technologies and actors using them, visibility becomes a more complex concept. The mainstream media no longer hold a monopoly over visibility, as connected mobile devices and social media platforms afford citizens the power to capture, share and consume their own versions of what they see and experience during a protest.

Read more at the link.

 

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New Ranking Digital Rights Index Is Out

img-bannerThe Ranking Digital Rights Project has published their 2017 Corporate Accountability Index, which evaluates 22 of the world’s most powerful telecommunications, internet, and mobile companies on their public commitments and disclosed policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

This year’s report finds that company disclosure remains inadequate across the board, and users are given little information to make choices about their security and privacy and have little control over what happens to their data. Further, most companies seem to disclose even less information about their freedom of expression policies and practices than about privacy-related ones.

I am proud to have contributed to the research for the Index and to have been a part of an important effort to increase accountability and transparency of corporations who control a large chunk of the world’s “privately owned” digital public spaces and networks.

Read a summary of the 2017 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index, see the report data and infographics, or download the complete report.

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Job news!

Image by sean hobson on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

I am excited to announce that I will be starting at the School of Communications at Dublin City University in Dublin, Ireland as Lecturer in Journalism in September. Looking forward to new teaching and research challenges, a new country and community to explore, and new adventures! Thanks to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at UMD for being my home these past four years, to Sarah Oates for being the best mentor and academic advisor, and to my family and my partner for bearing with me as I was figuring out what came next.

If you’re a fellow media and society researcher in Ireland and want to meet up, ping me!

 

 

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PhD Defense News

im-ukrainian-and-i-cant-keep-calm-9.jpgI am happy to report that on May 13, 2016, I had my doctoral dissertation defense (or what the British call viva), and that the committee found my research to be worthy. My dissertation was titled “Augmented Dissent: The Affordances of ICTs for Citizen Protest (A Case Study of the Ukraine Euromaidan Protests of 2013-2014)” and was based on interviews with Euromaidan protesters in Ukraine and beyond, as well as analysis of social media content posted by protest communities during the Euromaidan.

The defense was intense, but I got a ton of useful questions and comments, and already have new ideas pinging in my brain about where to take this research next. I am thankful to my committee members: Kalyani Chadha, Nick Diakopoulos, Sahar Khamis, and Linda Steiner, and to my wonderful advisor and mentor, Sarah Oates.

Read the abstract for my dissertation here.

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Civil Society and Internet Governance in Ukraine & Eastern Partnership

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Interested in internet governance and policy in Ukraine and Eastern Europe? Join me and a bunch of other wonderful people at the Workshop on Internet Policy in Eastern Partnership Countries hosted by the Center for Internet and Human Rights at European University Viadrina on March 8-9, 2016 in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany.

I’ll be talking about the role of civil society in promoting the internet freedom agenda in the Ukrainian internet governance discourse and how these efforts connect with the broader global network of internet freedom and human rights advocacy.