Tag Archives: russia

Beyond the Protest Square: Digital Media and Augmented Dissent

Hello! It’s finally a thing: my first book, Beyond the Protest Square: Digital Media and Augmented Dissent, is now available for pre-order! I can’t wait to share it with you.  

The book examines how citizens in countries with limited media freedom and corrupt authorities perceive the affordances of digital media for protest and how these enable or limit protest action depending on the political and social context.

The book is mostly focused on the 2013-2014 protests in Ukraine, but it reflects on augmented dissent more broadly and draws connections with other more recent events, e.g. protest campaigns in Russia. 

The book is based on extensive research and fieldwork, but also builds on the work of many wonderful protest, activism and digital media scholars, such as Katy Pearce, Sarah Oates, Olga Onuch, Zeynep Tufekçi, Tetyana Bohdanova, Jennifer Earl, Rebecca MacKinnon, Andrew Chadwick, Samuel Greene and many others.

I want to especially thank the amazing scholars who I admire and whose work I was inspired by for their endorsements of the book: Sarah Oates, Ethan Zuckerman, Olga Onuch, and Samuel Greene.

I am incredibly grateful to Laura Portwood-Stacer of Manuscript Works for helping me develop and improve my early drafts, to series editors Ruth Sanz Sabido and Stuart Price, and to my publisher Rowman & Littlefield International for pulling through despite the difficult year that 2020 has been. 

Kudos to Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the Trajectories of Change Programme at  ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Dublin City University whose funding enabled my research and helped make the book a reality. And to DCU School of Communications colleagues for multiple coffees and their support at the finish line! 

 Stay tuned for some forthcoming book events, online or (one day) in person!

Pre-order through IndieBound

Pre-order from Rowman & Littlefield International

Pre-order on Amazon.com

Pre-order on Amazon.co.uk and Kindle

See preview on Google Books

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All you ever wanted to know about Russia’s ‘internet sovereignty’ bill

Image by Kirk Lau on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

In February 2019, the mainstream media sounded alarm as news of Russia debating an internet ‘kill-switch’ and considering a digital sovereignty strategy spread like wildfire. Can Russia really disconnect from the global internet? And what would that mean for Russian internet users and their digital freedoms, already under threat? I spoke to a number of media outlets about the nuances of the new bill, its feasibility, and what it could mean for the RuNet:

If you are a journalist seeking input on this topic or other Russian internet-related issues, please get in touch!


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The trouble with Telegram

If you’re a Russia-watcher, or even Russia-curious, you have likely heard of the Telegram messenger—perhaps you even have a Telegram account. Created in 2013 by internet entrepreneur Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most-popular social network, VKontakte (VK), Telegram has gained a cult following and a loyal fan base in Russia and beyond. As of March 2018, Telegram had over 200 million active monthly users. What makes this messenger service so newsworthy and attractive? And what is its current status in Russia? Is there more to what happens on Telegram than mere encrypted chatting and daily doses of political gossip?

To explain why Telegram is so central to the Russian online experience, I wrote an explainer for PONARS Eurasia’s Point & Counterpoint project.

Shrouded in its self-made mythology of security and privacy, Telegram offers a level playing-field to all kinds of actors in Russia, creating a portable private-public sphere where anyone can be anonymous and yet be the darling of thousands of users hungry for every new disclosure and morsel of opinion.

Read the whole piece on the peculiar role of Telegram in Russia’s networked public sphere on the PONARS website.


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New article in Surveillance & Society

I have a new article in the great special issue of Surveillance & Society on “Surveillance in Post-Communist Societies,” guest edited by by Ola Svenonius and Fredrika Björklund. My piece, “Be Safe or Be Seen? How Russian Activists Negotiate Visibility and Security in Online Resistance Practices,” ethnographically examines how activists in Russia manage surveillance, security and visibility concerns online. Download the open access PDF here.

…the paper traces connections between everyday security practices that these activists engage in online and the resistance tactics and repertoires they enact in an environment where the free and open exchange of information on the Russian internet is becoming increasingly difficult. The analysis finds that Russian opposition activists place a high value on digital, media, and security literacy and that navigating the internet using security tools and protocols such as VPN, two-phase authentication, and encrypted messaging is increasingly seen as the default modus operandi for those participating in organised dissent in Russia to mitigate growing state surveillance. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that Russian activists have to balance the need for security with growing visibility—a key factor for entering the mainstream political and social discourse.

Read all of the excellent contributions to the issue (it’s open access, too!).

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


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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Two Recent Stories on Ukraine: YanukovychLeaks and Fact-Checking Crimea

Linking to two recent stories I did for Global Voices on the developments in Ukraine:

Ukrainian Journalists Take Regime’s Corruption Public With YanukovychLeaks: Journalists deep dive for drowned documents left behind by ousted President Yanukovych at his lavish estate, and create a public online database of regime corruption.

Ukraine’s Activists Debunk Russian Myths on Crimea: As tensions escalate with Ukraine accusing Russia of invading its autonomous southern region Crimea, Ukrainian activists are busy debunking false news in Russian media by sifting fact from propaganda online.

Follow more Global Voices coverage of Ukraine, Russia and Euromaidan protests.

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