The Lawfare Podcast: Russia Cracks Down on Social Media

By Jen Patja Howell
Thursday, October 7, 2021, 5:01 AM

In the last few weeks, the Russian government has been turning up the heat on tech platforms in an escalation of its long-standing efforts to bring the internet under its control. First, Russia forced Apple and Google to remove an app from their app stores that would have helped voters select non-Kremlin-backed candidates in the country’s recent parliamentary elections. Then, the government threatened to block YouTube within Russia if the platform refused to reinstate two German-language channels run by the state-backed outlet RT. And after we recorded this podcast, the Russian government announced that it would fine Facebook for not being quick enough in removing content that Russia identified as illegal.

What’s driving this latest offensive, and what does it mean for the future of the Russian internet? This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alina Polyakova, the president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, and Anastasiia Zlobina, the coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. They explained what this crackdown means for social media platforms whose Russian employees might soon be at risk, the legal structures behind the Russian government’s actions and what’s motivating the Kremlin to extend its control over the internet.