Moscow: “I’m an American!” A young Russian named Neurolera exclaimed in English on the popular video-sharing app TikTok. She explained how to impersonate a tourist to avoid being arrested in street demonstrations.
Her video — published ahead of rallies planned in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny — has been viewed more than 500,000 times while videos demanding Navalny’s release garnered hundreds of millions of views on the platform.
In Russia, where state-controlled media outlets co-exist in stark contrast with online platforms popular among the opposition, authorities have ramped up efforts to contain and even replace sites that are seen as a threat.
YouTube has become the main news source for many young Russians. The videos of Internet star Yuri Dud or Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner known for interviews with celebrities, are gaining more and more success.
Soon after Navani’s arrest, his team conducted a two-hour investigation into a luxurious palace on the Black Sea that was allegedly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since its release on Tuesday, the video has been viewed more than 60 million times on YouTube.
Russian authorities have in recent years started tightening the “Runet” (Russian segment of the Internet) in the name of fighting extremism, terrorism and protecting minors.
In 2019, Russia passed a law for the development of “sovereign internet” aimed at isolating the Runet from the worldwide web, a move activists fear will tighten government control of cyberspace and stifle free speech.