Sixty percent of Russians believe that Internet censorship — in particular, the banning of certain websites and material — is necessary, according to a new poll.
Just 25 percent opposed the idea; the rest of the respondents didn't know or declined to answer.
The poll was conducted by the Levada Center, an independent polling firm, which asked Russians questions about trust in media and censorship between Oct. 21 to 24. On the subject of political censorship, 32 percent of Russians said that denying access to certain websites would infringe upon the rights and freedoms of activists, while 44 percent said it did not and 24 percent could not answer.
More broadly, Russians seem to be generally skeptical about the Internet, Levada found, with 51 percent believing the Internet could not replace newspapers, radio and television — roughly the same figure as when the question was last asked in 2006. And while 56 percent of respondents said that they fully or mostly trusted the news they saw on Russian television channels, only 37 percent said the same about news they saw on the Internet.
In total, 35 percent of Russians thought the media was deceiving them frequently, while 49 percent said they felt that way only rarely.
The role of the Internet in modern media has become a matter of global debate in recent months, with some in the U.S. suggesting that online outlets that purposely publish fake news had an effect on the outcome of the recent presidential elections. However, in countries such as Russia, where most mainstream news networks are strongly aligned with the government, opposition groups have been able to organize and spread criticism of the government through online media.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the country does not have the legal authority to ban websites. Though some smaller websites have been blocked at some points, experts doubted Russia had the capability to implement more widespread online censorship.
There have been a number of recent signs that the country may be rethinking its approach, however. In April, Konstantin Malofeev, a wealthy businessman with links to the Kremlin who runs the pro-censorship lobbying group Safe Internet League, traveled to China to meet with the architects of that country's notorious “great firewall.” And this week the country moved to block the professional networking site LinkedIn as it did not house data about its Russian users within the country, a charge that could also be levied at other major international social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Polling by Levada and other organizations in Russia has long shown widespread support for Internet censorship. According to a study conducted in May 2014 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 59 percent of Russians believed that websites that showed gay pornographic content should be censored by the government, while 46 percent said social networks that allowed people to organize anti-government protests should be censored and 45 percent said the videos by the anti-government art group Pussy Riot should be banned.
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